JEFFERSON CITY – Missourians affected by the opioid crisis and those charged with tackling its impact need help and the state's attorney general's office says recent moves towards possible settlements are welcome.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt is supportive of the work of four state law officials after they announced a tentative $48 billion deal with five companies, including two opioid producers and three distributors.
The preliminary deal struck by the attorneys general from North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee was announced on the heels of a $260 million agreement between two Ohio counties and four companies that was struck on the cusp of a trial.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt | twitter.com/AGEricSchmitt
"I’m pleased with the progress being made in moving towards a settlement," Schmitt said in a statement following the attorneys general announcement. "The simple truth is: Missourians need help and they need it now - they can’t afford to wait for years and years of litigation. Just last year, nearly 1,000 Missourians died from opioid-related overdoses, meaning 1 in every 65 death(s) was due to opioid overdose."
Any steps towards a global settlement are complicated by the disparate and sometimes competing interests of those seeking to hold the drug and distribution companies accountable for their alleged involvement in the genesis and fomenting of the crisis.
Paul Hanly, a lawyer representing the thousands of cities and counties involved in the suits, told NBC News that the deal, which involves $22 billion in cash and the rest in services, does not work for his clients.
Municipalities and counties argue it is not enough money and that they want control over how it is spent.
Chris Nuelle, the Missouri Attorney General's press secretary, confirmed Schmitt is supportive of the "proposed settlement framework but these are really, really early preliminary talks."
While estimates are beginning to emerge of how much some counties and states might secure from settlements, it is not known the amount that could flow to Missouri, the press secretary said.
Nuelle said that Missouri is involved in negotiations that is hoped will deliver a settlement sooner rather than later. He described the recent announcements as something of a "blitz."
This includes the announcement by Purdue, the manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the most well-known opioids, that it is prepared as part of bankruptcy proceedings to settle for $12 billion.
The announcement was greeted with some criticism amid reports that the Sackler family, who holds most of the shares in the privately held company, is attempting to shield its own personal fortune through the bankruptcy proceedings.
"But the main to take away is that Missouri people need help and they need it now," Nuelle said.