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Tentative $161.5M settlement reached in WVa opioid trial

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By John Raby in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Attorneys for the state of West Virginia and two remaining pharmaceutical manufacturers have reached a tentative $161.5 million settlement just as closing arguments were set to begin in a seven-week trial over the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Wednesday.

Morrisey announced the development in court in the state’s lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., AbbVie’s Allergan and their family of companies. The judge agreed to put the trial on hold to give the parties the opportunity to work out a full settlement agreement in the upcoming weeks.

“Today does represent a very big day for our state,” Morrisey said later at a news conference.

The trial started April 4. The lawsuit accused the defendants of downplaying the risks of addiction associated with opioid use while overstating the benefits.

Under the tentative deal, West Virginia would receive more than $134.5 million in cash, while Teva would supply the state with $27 million worth of Narcan, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, restore breathing and bring someone back to consciousness.

By reaching a settlement, “it obviously puts us in a position where we mitigate risk,” Morrisey said. “We could win if we kept going to trial. I think we would have won. No guarantees, of course. But then we might be subject to five years of appeals and then we wouldn’t see any resources for five years.”

“I want to make sure we start to put feet on the ground now. And I want to see resources targeted to this epidemic now.”

Under a plan announced by Morrisey in February, 72.5% of the settlement will go to a nonprofit foundation established to distribute money in opioid-related litigations, 24.5% would be allocated to local governments and 3% would go to the state. The foundation would consist of an 11-member board, including five state appointees and representatives from six regions of the state. The board members will have expertise in fields such as mental health, substance misuse and law enforcement.

West Virginia had reached a $99 million settlement withdrugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. last month over the drugmaker’s role in perpetuating the opioid crisis in the state that has long led the nation in drug overdose deaths.

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

In separate, similar lawsuits, the state of West Virginia previously reached a $37 million settlement with McKesson Corp. in 2019, and $20 million with Cardinal Health Inc. and $16 million with AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. in 2017.

After years of lawsuits, drugmakers, distribution companies and some pharmacies have been settling cases over the toll of opioids.

In deals finalized this year, the three biggest distribution companies and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson agreed to settlements totaling $26 billion over time. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is in court trying to win approval for a national settlement including up to $6 billion in cash, plus using future profits from a remade version of the company to fight the opioid crisis.

In other settlements this year, the distributors have agreed to pay Washington state, which did not participate in the national settlement with them, more than $500 million, and a group of companies are sending $276 million to Alabama.

In all, proposed and finalized settlements, judgements and criminal penalties over opioids have reached more than $47 billion since 2007. Much of the money is to be used only to address the crisis, which has been linked to the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans in the last two decades. A relatively small portion of the settlement money – at least $750 million in the Purdue deal – is to be paid to individual victims and their survivors.

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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Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed to this report.

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Liberals planning temporary solution to dental care promise: sources

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Ottawa – Sources close to the government’s proposed $5.3-billion dental-care program say the Liberals are planning a temporary solution that involves giving money directly to patients in order to keep their promise to the NDP while they work on a permanent answer.

The Liberals promised the NDP a new dental-care program for low- and middle-income families in March as part of a supply and confidence agreement to prevent an election before 2025.

The government has until the end of the year to provide some kind of coverage for children under the age of 12 with an annual household income of less than $90,000.

The NDP have vowed to walk away from the deal if the deadline isn’t met.

Four sources with knowledge of the government’s plan, but who are not authorized to speak publicly, say the government is unlikely to meet its deadline, and is planning a stopgap solution until a permanent incarnation of the program is put in place.

Though details are scarce, the sources say the temporary solution would involve giving qualifying families the money directly to fund their dental health services while the government works on a more permanent, expanded program.

In a statement, the health minister’s staff did not confirm or deny the temporary plan but say they are on track to deliver on the dental-care commitment as outlined in the agreement with the New Democrats.

NDP health critic Don Davies did not directly address the temporary plan either, but said in a statement the party has “identified several ways to ensure the target groups can access dental care on the identified timelines.”

The NDP are now focused on pushing the Liberals to introduce dental-care legislation when Parliament resumes in the fall, Davies said.

“That legislation will deliver the resources needed to help children under 12 see a dentist and care for their teeth this year,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed the health minister’s faith about meeting the deadline last week.

“We’re very confident we can achieve that before the end of the year, as our agreement outlines,” Singh said at a news conference last Thursday.

The agreement isn’t prescriptive about how the coverage should be achieved, and the government hasn’t committed to any particular means of administering the program yet.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’s office has said repeatedly the department is looking at several options to meet its commitment and its end-of-year deadline.

The NDP originally envisioned a federal program that functions similarly to the federal health-benefits program run for uninsured First Nations and Inuit people.

The federal government could also offer money to provinces and territories to take it over, since many already offer similar programs and dental care has traditionally fallen within their jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the Liberals put out a formal request for information (RFI) to members of the insurance industry two weeks ago to explore what role private companies could play in administering the program.

In that RFI, the government says if a contract is awarded the winning company would be given six months to get ready before processing claims. That timeline would be impossible to achieve before the end of December.

According to the statement from Duclos’s staff, they’re still consulting on the best way forward.

The Liberals have promised to extend the program to qualifying teens, seniors and persons living with disabilities next year and everyone else in the qualifying family-income bracket by the end of the supply and confidence agreement in 2025.

“It comes as no surprise that the Trudeau government is not living up to a commitment it made to buy the NDP’s support,” Conservative health critic Michael Barrett said in a statement.

Barrett said Canadians should be concerned that the government is not committed to maintaining the current health system, “much less adding a new complex and expensive program to it.”

The government set aside $5.3 billion over five years for the program, but the parliamentary budget officer’s estimate is nearly double that at $9 billion.

Once the program is fully implemented, the Liberals’ 2022 budget predicts it will cost about $1.7 billion per year to run, which is in line with the PBO’s estimate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2022.

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COVID-19

Leading cause of death in Alberta (BY A LONG SHOT) is “Unknown”. Why isn’t our next Premier talking about this?

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If you were to ask 10 random Albertans what the leading cause of death was in 2021, many would respond with either COVID-19, or perhaps cancer.  If they really pay attention to things like this they might say heart disease or maybe dementia (old age).

Lucky for us the Province of Alberta has made the cause of death statistics public since 2001.  If you’d like to see them, click here and download “Leading Causes of Death”. If you do, you’ll see that for 15 years in a row, from 2001 to 2015 the leading cause of death for Albertans was heart disease. Dementia makes a strong push toward the end of that time frame.  By 2016 dementia became the leading cause of death for the next 5 years in a row.  Here’s what the list of the top 10 causes of death looked like in 2019. That was the last year ‘before’ COVID-19 appeared on the list.

2019 Organic dementia 1 1997
2019 All other forms of chronic ischemic heart disease 2 1886
2019 Malignant neoplasms of trachea, bronchus and lung 3 1523
2019 Other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 4 1159
2019 Acute myocardial infarction 5 1061
2019 Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described 6 678
2019 Accidental poisoning by and exposure to drugs and other biological substances 7 677
2019 Stroke, not specified as hemorrhage or infarction 8 602
2019 Diabetes mellitus 9 569
2019 Other ill-defined and unknown causes of mortality 10 522

Then along came COVID-19.  In 2020 dementia remained the leading cause of death for Albertans, but COVID-19 came charging out of nowhere to become the 6th most common cause of death.  It’s important to note though the stats say COVID-19 “identified”.  That makes it unclear whether COVID was THE cause, A cause, or A symptom.  The other interesting thing to note was that in 2020, suddenly “Unknown Causes” skyrocketed up to the fourth leading cause of death, outpacing even COVID.

2020 Organic dementia 1 2081
2020 All other forms of chronic ischemic heart disease 2 1897
2020 Malignant neoplasms of trachea, bronchus and lung 3 1563
2020 Other ill-defined and unknown causes of mortality 4 1464
2020 Other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 5 1178
2020 COVID-19, virus identified 6 1084
2020 Acute myocardial infarction 7 1067
2020 Accidental poisoning by and exposure to drugs and other biological substances 8 920
2020 Diabetes mellitus 9 743
2020 Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described 10 670

In 2021 you might expect COVID-19 would leap into top place in the list of leading causes of death for Albertans. That’s not what happened.  COVID did climb from the 6th most common cause of death to the 3rd most common cause, but at the same time “Unknown causes of mortality” EXPLODED into the top position.

Looking back on the last 20 years before 2021 the number 1 cause of death ranged from a low of 1,581 people dying of heart disease in 2012, to a high of 2,018 people dying of dementia in 2020.  It was only 2020 when the number of people dying from any single cause topped 2,000 for the first time.

Then in 2021 a whopping 2,135 people died of dementia.  That would be enough to be the number one cause of death any other year since records have been kept. Except it wasn’t because in 2021 3,362 people died of unknown causes! Not only did “unknown causes” of death rise above that threshold of 2,100.  It DEMOLISHED that number.

2021 Other ill-defined and unknown causes of mortality 1 3362
2021 Organic dementia 2 2135
2021 COVID-19, virus identified 3 1950
2021 All other forms of chronic ischemic heart disease 4 1939
2021 Malignant neoplasms of trachea, bronchus and lung 5 1552
2021 Acute myocardial infarction 6 1075
2021 Other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 7 1028
2021 Diabetes mellitus 8 728
2021 Stroke, not specified as hemorrhage or infarction 9 612
2021 Accidental poisoning by and exposure to drugs and other biological substances 10 604

It’s worth repeating, in 2021 “Unknown Causes” were responsible for the deaths of 3,362 Albertans! That’s over 50% more deaths than any of the leading causes since records have been made public!

Considering the Government of Alberta closed businesses, schools, and recreation centres for a virus responsible for 1,950 deaths in 2021 it is astounding that our media isn’t screaming and our government is not aggressively trying to figure out what caused the deaths of 3,362 Albertans!

It’s not just Alberta and Canada seeing this alarming trend.  In England officials are reporting an increase in excess deaths of over 15% compared to the 5 year average. ” Harley Street GP Charles Levinson told The Spectator that while “every slight bump or uptick in the Covid numbers demands endless column inches”, there had been “total silence from so many” on the “damning” overall death statistics. “

British health researcher John Campbell reveals the situation in England.

It used to be the media’s job to take the data and ask questions.  Somehow they’ve failed to recognize the significance of THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH sweeping much of the planet.

If you were unable to come up with your own questions when you watched John Campbell’s video, you might very much appreciate this commentary from Jimmy Dore.

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