Ringing up chain pharmacies
On April 20, Seattle officials signed a $14 million settlement with five companies that produced or sold opioids, money that will be plowed into “opioid remediation,” according to a press release.
The agreement, officially finalized April 18, will be paid out by Walgreens, Teva, Allergan, CVS and Walmart over the next 15 years.
The city originally sued Teva and Allergan in 2017 and Walgreens in 2019, cases that eventually ended up in U.S. District Court.
“I hope these funds will provide respite and treatment for those who continue to suffer and prevent more Seattle residents from becoming trapped in the addiction crisis,” said City Attorney Ann Davison in a press release.
The city will also receive funds from a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., which settled in October 2022. That settlement brought $434 million to the state of Washington, roughly half of which will flow to localities to continue work to reduce the lethal opioid crisis.
According to Public Health – Seattle & King County, 1,001 people died of drug and alcohol poisoning in 2022, a significant increase over the 709 people who died the year before. More than half of 2022 deaths — 527 — were due to opioids and stimulants, while another 27.5 percent of deaths were due to opioids alone.
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, accounts for far and away the majority of those deaths. According to the department, 712 confirmed overdose deaths involved fentanyl.
The bulk of overdoses treated by King County Emergency Medical Services in 2022 occurred in downtown Seattle and central Seattle, according to county figures.
Off the books
Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation on April 20 that removes statutes deemed unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court from the state code, including the death penalty.
Overall, more than 30 sections of the Revised Code of Washington will be repealed or amended within 90 days.
The legislation covers a lot of ground, including laws limiting admission to the bar to U.S. citizens, prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to children, allowing judges to order sterilization of “some people” and allowing law enforcement to inspect massage parlors without a warrant, according to the final bill report.
The governor highlighted the removal of the death penalty statute, which the court found was racially biased and arbitrary in 2018. The justices ruled that the law was unconstitutional. A study showed that Black defendants were four times as likely to be sentenced to death as white defendants.
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Read more of the Apr. 26-May 2, 2023 issue.