One of the most common things ever said about justice is that its wheels turn slowly.
That’s certainly the way it’s been going for Guilford County and many other local governments across the country engaged in a number of joint lawsuits against the makers and distributors of opioids. Like many counties, cities and towns in America, Guilford County has faced tremendous cost, suffering and loss of life due to the actions of the drug companies, and it has, for years, been trying to recoup some of those costs by suing the drug makers and distributors.
This week, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to charges filed against the company for its role in the opioid crisis and it agreed to pay an $8.3-billion settlement.
Guilford County should end up with some of that money, however, Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne said there’s still a long way to go before a check from the company is written that the county commissioners can cash.
“It is likely that Guilford County will see some of this money,” Payne wrote in an email, “but the details are far from resolved.”
Payne pointed out that there are a lot of players in the mix. The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) formed a committee to negotiate with the state’s Attorney General’s office to arrive at “a fair allocation” of any of the proceeds that come to North Carolina from the lawsuits.
“It is informally called the ‘5-5-5’ committee as it has 5 county managers, 5 county commissioners and 5 county attorneys,” Payne wrote. “Guilford County, Forsyth County and Rockingham County are represented on the committee by myself, Gordon Watkins, Forsyth County Attorney, and Rockingham County Commissioner Reece Pyrtle. Those discussions are moving in a positive direction but no resolution has been reached yet.”
While the Purdue Pharma case may have been resolved with an $8.3-billion price tag, it’s not clear how much Guilford County will get.
There are also other suits against drug makers that have yet to be resolved.
As part of the Perdue Pharma plea, the company admitted quite a bit of serious wrongdoing, including misleading the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and falsifying reports to the agency. The company also admitted to violating kickback laws and to helping medical professionals prescribe opioids in an illegitimate manner.