TAMPA, Fla. — CORRECTION: The video clip references Bemetra Simmons as the President and CEO of LIVE Tampa Bay, which is incorrect. Bemetra is the President and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, which LIVE Tampa Bay emerged from. Jennifer Webb is the President and CEO of LIVE Tampa Bay.
Florida has reached a $680 million settlement with Walgreens in the trial over the drugstore chain's role in the opioid crisis.
It's the latest development in the nationwide effort to hold drug companies, pharmacies and distributors accountable for fueling drug addiction across the country.
Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the "historic settlement" Thursday at a news conference in Tampa.
"Florida is the first state in the nation to successfully conclude litigation against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies," she said.
Moody explained that Walgreens is the 12th and final defendant in the state's case to hold "major opioid distributors, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies" accountable for the part they played in fueling the crisis.
The $680 million settlement brings the total funds secured through several litigation efforts related to the opioid crisis to $3 billion, according to the attorney general.
Moody said the money will be paid out over the next two decades to help families and communities heal. It will be directed to communities hit hardest by drug addiction for treatment and prevention options.
"The funds will undoubtedly save the lives of Floridians," she said. "With these funds, Florida goes on offense to stop addiction and save lives."
During the trial, which took place in a Pasco County courtroom, lawyers for Florida described Walgreens’ dispensing of the addictive drugs – like it was Tylenol. The state said Walgreens knowingly profited at the expense of others, including addicts who’ve seen their lives destroyed.
The representatives claimed that the state has spent millions in taxpayer resources to battle waves of addiction. For example, a Walgreens distribution center, they said, had sold 2.2 million tablets to a single Walgreens store in Hudson — enough for a six-month supply for each of the city’s 12,000 residents.
However, attorneys for Walgreens claimed that the Attorney General’s Office failed to act for years even as pill mills flourished. They argued that the drug store chain didn't approve or prescribe the drugs, it responsibly filled prescriptions approved for patients by their doctors.
You can watch Attorney General Moody's full press conference below.
Bemetra Simmons, the President and CEO of Tampa Bay Partnership, which leads 'Project Opioid Tampa Bay', says the settlement will provide needed funding to programs that fight the opioid epidemic.
"Anytime that you have something that’s underfunded, that means there’s someone out there that needs care that’s not getting it, and that’s a life that’s potentially at risk of being lost. So these dollars help us with the continuum of care that can help us save one life, or 20 lives, or 50 lives," said Simmons.
Simmons says there are countless areas in the field of recovery and fighting opioid addiction that needs public funding.
"We have counties in our region that don’t have opioid task forces, so if these dollars could do that, or if these dollars could help one of our law enforcement departments get more Narcan in their hands, things like that would be really helpful," said Simmons. "Those are things that will really go a long way in saving lives."
While 'Project Opioid Tampa Bay' is not eligible to receive public funding as a part of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the non-profit 'LIVE Tampa Bay' has stemmed from its work. As a 501c3, 'LIVE Tampa Bay' is able to pursue all funding sources, including public funds, such as the ones stemming from the Florida vs. Walgreens lawsuit.