File-Purdue Pharma

n this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in Stamford, Conn. Purdue Pharma, which helped revolutionize the prescription painkiller business with its drug OxyContin, is proposing a path to emerge from bankruptcy that calls for it to be transformed into a public trust funneling profits into the fight against the nation's intractable opioid crisis.

(The Center Square) – Indiana is expecting to begin receiving payouts later this year and next year from settlements from its lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors and will also be receiving tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to address the opioid epidemic.

The total amount of money expected to be received will likely total more than $700 million. Most of it will have to be spent on addiction treatment, education and prevention.

Two attorneys from the Indiana Attorney General’s office gave the update on the state’s suits against drug makers last week during a meeting of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.

Cory Voight, director of complex litigation for the Attorney General’s office, reviewed all the suits the state has filed starting with its suit against Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, in November of 2018, followed by a second suit filed against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, in May of 2019.

Both suits were halted when Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy, Voight said.

Purdue Pharma’s $7 billion bankruptcy plan is now before a judge in New York, who is expected to soon decide whether to approve it.

“Thousands of Hoosiers have lost their lives to opioid overdoses in the last several years,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita had said in March when the plan was first announced, “and I am encouraged that this plan will lead to much-needed and long-overdue aid for our citizens. The opioid epidemic continues to plague our great state, and I will do all I can to see that this plan helps end our citizens’ suffering.”

To get its full share of the settlement, Voight said the state has to show it has a plan. Indiana has already passed a law affirming a plan whereby the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) will divide the state into regions, with money distributed to each region to help with the opioid addiction crisis. Marion County and Lake County will be their own regions, said Voight, based on their population.

In 2020, 816 Hoosiers died of an opioid overdose – either from prescription pain killers or from heroine or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. This was down from 2019, when the number of opioid deaths was 1,246.

The highest death rate from opioid overdoses was in Fayette County, near the Ohio border, where the rate of death from an opioid overdose between 2013 and 2017 was 58.8 per 100,000 population.

Voight said Indiana should get its first distribution of money from the Purdue Pharma settlement before the end of the year, and the funds must be used for treatment, prevention and education programs.

But in addition to the Purdue Pharma and Sackler family suits, in October of 2019 Indiana had filed a third lawsuit – this one against the companies that distributed opioids to pharmacies in the state – Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen.

The potential settlement in this case is expected to be about $21 billion, and will be distributed to all the states involved starting most likely in early 2022, said Voight.

There is also a potential settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen, maker of an opioid that was distributed in Indiana. This settlement, said deputy attorney general Betsy DeNardi, is expected to be $5 billion for all states combined.

But the amount of money the state gets, she said, will depend on whether the state has the "buy-in" of cities and counties that also filed suit against the company for its role in the state’s opioid crisis.

In addition, the state will be getting tens of millions of dollars in state and federal assistance to deal with the opioid problem, including $45 million from the federal government that was earmarked in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that passed last fall, $45-$60 million from the American Rescue Plan Act passed this spring, and $100 million from the state of Indiana that was in the budget bill that passed last month -- $50 million in fiscal year 2022 and another $50 million in fiscal year 2023.

“We all know this is one-time money,” said Jay Choudhary of FSSA of the programs now being set up to distribute these funds. “We want this to be a journey to a healthier and happier Indiana by 2025.”

A spokeswoman with the Indiana Attorney General’s office advised following publication of this article that the payouts from the settlements with drug makers and distributors are likely to be spread out over several years, and that it could take up to 18 years for Indiana to get its final payments.