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J&J’s Janssen settles with WVa for $99M in opioid lawsuit

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By Leah Willingham in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia will receive $99 million in a settlement finalized Monday with Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. over the drugmaker’s role in perpetuating the opioid crisis in the state that has long led the nation in drug overdose deaths.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said during a news briefing that he believes West Virginia’s settlement is the largest in the country per capita with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, which has faced opioid litigation in dozens of communities throughout the U.S.

The attorney general said the figure is reflective of the severity of the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

“We think it represents a major step forward to start to get money in the door to help West Virginians who have been devastated by the opioid epidemic,” Morrisey said from his state Capitol office.

The settlement was announced at the start of the third week of testimony in the state’s case against Janssen, Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan and their family of companies. The companies are accused of downplaying or failing to mention the risks of addiction associated with opioid use in West Virginia while overstating the prescription drugs’ benefits.

In a statement Monday, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson and Janssen said the settlement is not an “admission of liability or wrongdoing” by the company.

“The company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important opioid prescription medications were appropriate and responsible,” a news release read. The company no longer sells prescription opioid medications in the U.S., according to the release.

Morrisey said West Virginia’s cities and counties could start seeing the settlement money within 45 days. The money will be used to help communities combat the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, he said the trial against Teva and Allergan is continuing as scheduled.

“We will have no delay in our pursuit of accountability against Teva and Allergan and we’ll be back in court now,” he said.

Filed in 2019, the state’s lawsuits accuse the companies of creating a public nuisance and violating the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

Attorneys for the companies said during opening statements earlier this month that their individual products in question had considerably less than 1% of the market share in West Virginia, were medically necessary prescriptions and could not have contributed to the state’s opioid problems.

But pharmaceutical marketing expert Matthew Perri testified that he “painstakingly” reviewed thousands of pages of marketing materials from the companies. He described a “paradigm shift” from the late 1990s to early 2000s in which the companies transitioned from marketing opioids as drugs designed for terminal cancer patients to drugs aimed at treating long-term pain.

Perri testified that marketing materials used by sales representatives described drugs as “safe and highly effective” at controlling pain and “improving functionality and quality of life” for patients.

“It took down the barriers that were there, and effectively lowered the bar” for the prescription of opioid medications, he said. “Opioids could be prescribed sooner in the treatment process, with less worry.”

Dr. Katherine Keyes, director of Columbia University’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program, testified last week that the influx of prescription opioids into communities was the main driver of the state’s drug crisis — more than poverty, job loss and other economic stressors.

“The economic conditions were the kindling, but the opioid suppliers were the gasoline that was poured directly on that kindling,” Keyes said.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the state’s former health officer, testified during a video deposition shown earlier this month that the opioid epidemic got so bad, the state was having trouble finding foster parents to care for children. He said it also led to increases in public health problems such as Hepatitis B and HIV cases and neonatal abstinence syndrome, a withdrawal in newborns caused by exposure to drugs in the womb.

Gupta, who is now the White House drug czar, recorded his testimony before he was named to his White House position last fall.

Before the trial started, Morrisey’s office announced the state settled part of the lawsuit involving another defendant, Endo Health Solutions, for $26 million.

State and local governments, Native American tribes, unions, hospitals and other entities have filed more than 3,000 lawsuits involving the opioid epidemic in state and federal courts.

In November, a California judge ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, Endo International, Teva and others, saying local governments had not proven in a lawsuit that the companies used deceptive marketing to increase unnecessary opioid prescriptions and create a public nuisance.

Nationwide settlements were completed in February by Johnson & Johnson and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson over their role in the opioid addiction crisis. That cleared the way for $26 billion to flow to nearly every state and local government in the U.S. West Virginia previously reached settlements in separate lawsuits, including $37 million with distributor McKesson in 2019, and $20 million with Cardinal Health and $16 million with AmerisourceBergen in 2017.

In Charleston, a separate bench trial wrapped up last summer in a federal lawsuit accusing AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson of fueling the opioid crisis in Cabell County and the city of Huntington. That judge has not indicated when he will rule.

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Alberta

Alberta announces combined $187 million in addictions and homelessness funding

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By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Alberta government has announced more than $124 million over two years for addiction and mental health services in Edmonton and Calgary, with another $63 million aimed at reducing homelessness in the province over the same period.

The funding for Edmonton and Calgary will go toward increasing treatment spaces while expanding addiction services, with $70 million earmarked for capital spending and $54 million to assist operations.

A 75-bed, co-ed long-term treatment facility is planned to be operational in Edmonton by the end of 2023, while a similar facility is to be built in Calgary by early 2024.

The $63 million is to support steps outlined in the government’s action plan on homelessness.

Premier Jason Kenney stressed his government’s recovery-based approach to the addictions issue when he announced the funding Saturday, calling British Columbia’s recent move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs in January “reckless.”

“In the area of addressing addictions, there are many that believe recovery is a false hope. It’s not possible, and instead what we should do is actually to facilitate dangerous addictions rather than to offer an off-ramp to freedom from addiction,” Kenney said during the announcement at Edmonton’s Herb Jamieson Centre.

“The whole point is to give people a fighting chance to escape from the grips of addiction so they have the opportunity to build a new, safe fulfilling life.

“Recovery works. It’s not a new concept or an untested Utopian theory,” he said.

Under the Alberta plan, the number of winter shelter spaces will be expanded in communities like Edmonton, Wetaskiwin and Lethbridge, and in rural communities where there is an urgent and unmet need.

All provincially funded shelters will also provide round-the-clock access seven days a week, while funding will be equalized between community-based organizations in Edmonton and Calgary.

The funding will include $5 million to create up to 450 additional shelter spots in Edmonton, bringing the number of emergency spaces in the city to over 1,000.

The plan also includes $2.5 million in 2022-2023 to test the so-called service hub model in two pilot programs in Calgary and Edmonton. These six-month long programs will connect people directly with support and services such as addictions recovery, housing and emergency financial support, beginning this fall.

Meanwhile, the addictions funding will be used to increase the ability of direct outreach teams through Edmonton police and Alberta Health Services to provide support and overdose prevention services. The same expansion of services will also be carried out in Calgary.

Edmonton police chief Dale McFee lauded the fact that housing options include support for mental health and addictions as he personally thanked Kenney for the new funding.

“This is the biggest single investment that I’ve ever seen over the course of my career in actually addressing the system versus putting more money into silos that are actually generating a lot of the problem,” McFee said at the announcement.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the funding would tackle the root causes of homelessness, and also praised the fact the province was delivering on a request to provide enhanced plans when prisoners are discharged from corrections facilities.

In July, the city requested a hub where social workers, firefighters and peace officers could work together to reduce crime and address a spike in violence downtown, in nearby Chinatown and and on the transit system.

“These investments show our collaborative approach is working, and together we are making life better for struggling Edmontonians,” Sohi said at the announcement.

But NDP Critic for Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson said in a news release that Kenney’s government has cut funding for housing, noting buildings that could have opened months ago are sitting empty because the government hasn’t provided operational funding.

“The money announced today does not even begin to address the deeper need for permanent supportive housing, social housing and affordable housing in this province,” she said.

According to the province, over 6,400 Albertans were experiencing homelessness— including nearly 4,000 using emergency shelters or on the streets — as of Jan. 31.

Alberta saw more than 1,600 opioid-related deaths in 2021.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2022.

SLUGLINEAlta-Addictions-Homeless-Funding
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City of Red Deer

Red Deer is Canada’s most active community. Celebrate with free activities at the Collicutt Centre!

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News release from the Red Deer Primary Care Network

Residents are invited to celebrate Red Deer winning the Community Better ParticipACTION Challenge and the title of the “Most Active Community” in Canada.

October 15, 2022, Collicutt Centre

In June, Red Deer Residents participated in the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge.

This challenge saw our citizens and community organizations tracking over 19 million minutes of physical activity. We had over 700 community members and 35 community organizations showing a total of 153,010 people participating in organized community events and tracking their activity on the ParticipACTION app or website.

This support by our community helped Red Deer WIN the title of Canada’s Most Active Community. Along with the title we received the $100,000 grand prize to be put back into our community to stay active and healthy.

As recognition and to thank everyone for their efforts and celebrate this victory, we welcome all Red Deer citizens to join us at that the Collicutt Centre on October 15th, 2022, from 12:00- 3:00pm.

There will be a warm welcome address by Mayor Johnston between 12:00-12:15pm followed by FREE Swimming, Skating and activities in the Field House for everyone to participate in. There will also be the opportunity to connect with community organizations showcasing their services on mainstreet in the Collicutt.

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october, 2022

thu13oct5:30 pm7:30 pmPregnancy & Loss Support Group - Zoom Session5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

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