County to receive funds from opioid settlement with pharmacies, drug manufacturer

ARDMORE – The Carter County Commission has signaled approval to join counties across Oklahoma who will receive additional funds from settlements stemming from the opioid drug epidemic. The funds will be earmarked for use to directly fight against and recover from an epidemic that has claimed dozens of lives in Carter County alone.

First Assistant District Attorney Melissa Handke told the commission on Monday that the most recent agreement is similar to one approved last year after a state settlement with pharmaceutical companies.

“This is now with the pharmacies. The work has already been done, we just have to agree that we would like some of the money,” Handke told commissioners. “The money is to be used for specific things…a lot of that is fighting against the opioid epidemic,” she said.

The commission voted unanimously to approve participation in the settlements.

In January, former Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Conner announced settlements with major distributors of opioids, including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, totaling up to $226.1 million.

The most recent settlements includes the state receiving up to $79.5 million from Walgreens, $73 million from CVS, $41 million from Walmart, and $32.6 million from former manufacturer Allergan. Each settlement has separate payment terms, with some being paid out between 10 and 15 years.

“To achieve maximum recoveries, the local cities and counties must sign on to these settlements. Certain amounts of the funds will be distributed to them,” read O’Conner’s January statement.

Allergan made Norco- and Kadian-branded and generic opioids and sold its generic portfolio and drugs to Teva in 2016, according to O’Conner’s statement. The state reached a separate $85 million settlement agreement with Teva in 2019.

The state has reached other settlements with drug manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, with the state receiving over $900 million in total. A $465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson was overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2021.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Carter County has the 19th highest fatal drug overdose rate in the state. Between 2016 and 2020, 26 accidental overdose deaths in Carter County were linked to opioid while 31 were linked to methamphetamines.

Between 2018 and 2020, about 87% of drug overdose deaths across Oklahoma were unintentional and 8% were due to suicide.

Carter County also had the 9th highest nonfatal drug overdose hospitalization rate in the state in 2020, with almost 1-in-3 overdose hospitalizations in Carter County linked to opioid use. Women were 49% more likely to be hospitalized than males, and young adults between 20 and 24 years old had the highest hospitalization rates, according to the state health department.

Handke said she is unsure of the exact amount of funds that Carter County will receive. The Oklahoma Opioid Abatement Board is responsible for distributing funds from the settlements to cities and counties based on criteria approved by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2017.

In other business on Monday, the Carter County Commission:

  • disposed of surplus equipment from District 3 and the District Attorney’s office;
  • approved advertising for bids on crushing concrete from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for the District 3 yard;
  • renewed three road crossing permits for Citation Oil and Gas Corporation;
  • approved a road crossing permit for Mack Energy;
  • approved monthly appropriations, officers’ reports, requisitions and purchase orders.