PHILADELPHIA - Two local District Attorneys are fighting to ensure that accountability is upheld against those they believe have been factors in the opioid epidemic.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. joined Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner in suing Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro to ensure ongoing litigation against multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical giants are not squashed by a settlement deal backed by those companies and state AGs.
The settlement doesn't require the Big 3 pharmaceutical companies, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson to concede responsibility for the opioid epidemic.
Instead, the companies will have 18 years to pay out a $21 billion settlement, which will be divided among numerous states.
In an announcement hailing the settlement, the companies said the agreement "would result in the settlement of a substantial majority of opioid lawsuits filed by state and local governmental entities," including, presumably, lawsuits filed by district attorneys in Pennsylvania’s largest and hardest-hit counties.
"The victims of this opioid crisis and the people of Allegheny County would best be served by having these matters decided by a jury in Allegheny County. Accepting a contingent settlement of possibly a few million dollars isn't acceptable. It doesn't begin to come close to addressing the hundreds of millions of dollars of damage that has been done and thousands of Allegheny County Residents’ lives that have been destroyed," Allegheny DA Zappala said. "We have the jurisdiction, the authority, and the responsibility to the citizens of Allegheny County to pursue this case and get a just settlement that does the most good for the most people of this County."
Both DA Zappala and DA Krasner, who are among at least 10 chief county prosecutors in Pennsylvania seeking to hold the Big 3 and other drug manufacturers accountable for their roles in the addiction crisis, have filed complaints against Attorney General Josh Shapiro – unhappy with the results of the settlement.
According to them, in Philadelphia, the largest and most populous county in Pennsylvania, the Big 3-AG settlement would provide a "pittance" of at most less than $10 million a year for 18 years. They say the epidemic has cost residents and local government more in responding to the crisis.
In Allegheny, the second most populous county in Pennsylvania, the settlement will leave "the County with virtually nothing it can count on to abate the ongoing epidemic," according to DA Zappala’s complaint.
Pennsylvania has seen some of the highest overdose death rates in the country.