New Mexico is set to receiving large opioid litigation payouts and will have to decide how the money is spent.
After six years of battling Big Pharma and its supply chain, New Mexico’s Attorney General (AG) Hector Balderas said his team will finally receive an opioid litigation payout. At the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting held on November 1, the AG told legislators the state is set to be compensated more than $200 million, which Balderas says he hopes will be “used wisely.”
“This is money that needs to be planned by the executive and legislative bodies,” he said. “In some ways, I bring you good news that we brought some dollars out of the sky because I took a fistfight to the courts, and we historically held the entire supply chain accountable. Fifteen to 16 companies I sued five years ago. Not just the manufacturers of opioid pills, but the marketers and the distributors.”
New Mexico’s payout will include $32 million for four cases against big pharma, and as the AG mentioned, “We also settled with three more companies where $163 million will be payable over 18 years. You have a wonderful opportunity to leverage those dollars with either state dollars or local dollars.”
Balderas is counting on the state’s legislatures to do their part in allocating the funds to the treatment and prevention of opioid use disorder and overdose fatalities. He also hopes that the funds will make up for the tax dollars spent on public safety, medical response teams and life-saving measures involved in attempting to curtail the crisis.
Balderas added, “As a colleague, I don’t know if we’re ready. I guess that’s the next question I’m raising is, ‘Do we have the infrastructure ready to go, or do we need to just put resources into it?’”
New Mexico’s legislators are also set to receive funds from a $5 billion nationwide opioid settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
Many legislators responded that they would like to put the compensation in a trust to give them time to come up with the most thoughtful and impactful ways to use the money. They’ve also suggested that some of the money “could go to local governments for years to come while the remaining would fund abatement programs.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 500,000 lives lost to opioid addiction in the U.S. alone, and New Mexico has been one of the hardest hit states. Bordering Mexico, deadly opioid drugs have infiltrated its streets and fentanyl has flooded its major cities. The synthetic opioid, up to 100 times more potent than morphine, is causing an ever-increasing overdose rate. Individuals sometimes buy illicit fentanyl outright; however, it is much more commonly mixed into other drugs. Buyers who are paying for meth, cocaine and heroin die from overdoses because their drugs of choice have been laced with fentanyl. The issue doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Now that the nationwide opioid litigation is coming to a halt, it is critical that the states set to receive funds spend the money on efforts that will successfully mitigate the crisis.