Health

Michigan AG urges Legislature to use $858K Settlement for Opioid Education, Addiction Prevention Programs

LANSING, MI – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today urged the Michigan Legislature to direct $859,120 in proceeds Michigan will receive as part of a $33 million dollar national settlement his office helped negotiate with a pharmaceutical company towards opioid addiction education and prevention efforts, as well as law enforcement opioid response training across the State of Michigan.

“One of the many ways we can help to slow the scourge of addiction is to stop it before it starts,” said Schuette.  “In addition to medical treatment for those already struggling with addiction and various legal reforms, we should also expand public education programs aimed at reducing the amount of drugs available and educating the public about just how dangerous an opioid addiction is.”

In a letter to Michigan’s legislative leadership, Schuette explained that with an average of five Michigan residents dying every day from opioid overdoses, Michigan has been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as one of 19 states that has had a statistically significant increase in opioid-related deaths.

As a result, Schuette proposed that the legislature take a close look at using the nearly $1 million in settlement funds arriving next month in the state’s General Fund to enable the creation of state and/or local opioid awareness programs.

Schuette said in the letter that, “This pharmaceutical settlement, which came in response to problems with unrelated pharmaceutical products, can and should be used to help educate the public about the dangers of addiction before people get hooked, train citizens how to spot the signs of drug use by family members and friends, and learn how to properly dispose of unused opioids so they do not fall into the wrong hands.  Such a program or programs could be conducted at the state level, for example, by creating a state opioids-focused informational website and other educational materials, or at the local level involving county health departments and schools.”

“Like you, I am fully committed to efforts to save Michigan lives from this tidal wave of addition. Our entire state has been impacted from north to south and east to west because opioid addiction knows no social or economic barriers.  It doesn’t care about race or gender and it claims young and old alike.” 

MICHIGAN OPIOID TASKFORCE CALLED FOR EDUCATION PROGRAMS

Schuette was the Chair of the Regulation, Enforcement, and Policy Subcommittee for the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Taskforce, which recommended a multi-faceted public awareness campaign be undertaken to inform the public of the dangers of abuse, how to safeguard and properly dispose of medicines, publicize improper prescribing practices, and reduce the stigma of addiction. The taskforce also recommended additional training for law enforcement in the area of recognizing and dealing with addiction for those officers who do not deal directly with narcotics regularly.

Michigan saw a more than 13% increase in opioid-related deaths from 2013-14 to 2014-15 and was one of 19 states identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as having a statistically significant increase in opioid-related deaths.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed over 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan’s Automated Prescription System reported more than 21 million prescriptions for controlled substances written in 2014, an increase of roughly more than four million prescriptions since 2007.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s population fell from 10 million in 2007 to 9.9 million in 2014. Michigan ranks tenth nationally per capita for opioid-based prescriptions, and 18th for overdose deaths.

SETTLEMENT BACKGROUND

The $859,120 in settlement funds are a result of recalls in 2015 of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Rolaids and several other Johnson & Johnson products. While no direct injuries were reported, Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil subsidiary attempted to conceal manufacturing defects and failed to report the issues to the FDA.

Schuette, along with 42 other state attorneys general, reached a $33 million Consumer Settlement with Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson to resolve allegations they misrepresented the quality of certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

The settlement requires Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil to ensure that its marketing and promotional practices comply with the law in promoting their OTC drug products.  Specifically, McNeil must comply with the following:

  • The company cannot state that their OTC product facilities meet FDA guidelines for cGMP if McNeil has had a Class I or Class II Recall of OTC drug products within the previous twelve months.
  • They must follow its internal standard operating policies regarding whether to open a Corrective Action/Preventive Action plan (CAPA) during the manufacture of an OTC drug; and
  • Must provide information to participating attorneys general within sixty (60) days of a written request regarding the identity of wholesalers or warehouses to which any OTC drugs that were subject to a recall were distributed in their state.

Schuette encouraged the legislature to take advantage of the fact that unlike many state drug settlements, these funds are not tied to a restricted fund and will instead be sent to the state General Fund.  Additionally, the terms of the settlement include increasing consumer protection as a proper use of the funds.

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