CONCORD, N.H. – For years, drug companies flooded markets with prescription opioids, fueling “the worst human-made epidemic in modern medical history,” according to N.H. state prosecutors.
They’ve sued a handful of those drug companies and pharmacies, in several cases reaching settlements that are projected to bring $308 million into the state.
But recent developments in bankruptcy proceedings could derail two of New Hampshire’s settlement agreements worth $52 million, Deputy Attorney General James Boffetti told the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund & Advisory Commission Monday.
Settlement agreements with both Mallinckrodt and Purdue Pharma are in jeopardy, according to Boffetti.
New Hampshire was supposed to receive $6.3 million from Mallinckrodt.
“They now said, ‘Oh sorry, we don’t have any more money. We can’t pay,’” Boffetti said during a commission meeting Monday. He said the company may make a modest payment before filing for bankruptcy a second time.
A second bankruptcy filing could wipe out the company’s entire $1.7 billion opioid deal, NPR reported in June.
A settlement with Purdue Pharma is pending review before the U.S. Supreme Court, which could place the state’s $46 million portion of that settlement in jeopardy. The state was supposed to receive the money over an 18-year period.
The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the agreement, which would have shielded the Sackler family, who controlled the company, from most liability, without declaring bankruptcy themselves.
Boffetti called it “a sad tale.”
“The Sacklers get to keep their ill-gotten gains for longer periods of time. They get to make money off their money. And this gets delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court acts,” he said.
Checks from other settlements are trickling into the state’s coffers according to schedule.
New Hampshire received $5.2 million from McKesson Cardinal Health in July, Boffetti said. That’s this year’s payment on a settlement that will deliver $116 million total, with annual payments through 2038.
Most of that money goes to the state’s opioid trust fund, which now totals around $38 million, Boffetti said. About 15 percent of the funds were distributed to the 23 communities that joined legal action against opioid companies.
Boffetti said the state is close to finalizing agreements with CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Teva, and Allergan.
So far, the state has spent $6.7 million in contracts for opioid abatement including harm reduction, residential treatment, and youth prevention.
The 23 municipalities have received $7.6 million so far, totaling around $15 million spent.
Some on the commission say the state needs to move faster to get funding out of the door.
“At this point we should be getting money out,” said David Mara, the governor’s advisor on addiction and behavioral health and former police chief of Portsmouth and Manchester. “Let’s plug some gaps. We keep talking about our principles… I’d like us to just get the money out there and start moving.”
Commission members indicated that housing and transportation are the major issues to study and potentially address in the next round of funding.
Patrick Tufts, a prevention profession and chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drugs, said supportive housing was the single largest gap in the current system. But the commission hasn’t been able to move forward with funding efforts, he said, as the topic hasn’t been on their agenda.
“There’s an opportunity here to do some of the big work that needs to get done,” he said. “But I think we have to keep these things back on our agenda and move on them and then identify the next opportunity and move on.”
Lack of transportation is another major issue the commission is considering addressing.
“We have people who just can’t get to treatment. They have no way of getting there,” Boffetti said.
But money alone won’t solve the problem, according to Jennifer Sabin, an executive agency manager in the behavioral health division at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“It is going to have to be creative, upstream, strategic because there is money and has been money for five years in the North Country, and there is no one to drive the cars,” she said.
A subcommittee will address the issue before the commission next meets on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m.