NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry on Monday announced a unique lawsuit settlement that may save the lives of opioid overdose victims.
The agreement by Landry's office and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, will give the state the equivalent of $1 million worth of Naloxone doses, a drug that offsets the effects of opioids. Landry said the doses, about 60,000 vials, will be distributed to first-responders in Louisiana through vouchers, which various public safety organizations may request. The goal: Give first-responders adequate doses over the remedy to apply to overdose victims when first-responders are called to emergency scenes.
Landry said opioid overdoses represent "an epidemic that knows no boundaries," and the point of the settlement, which comes from an anti-trust suit unrelated to opioids that the Attorney General's Office initiated in 2015, "is to save lives." Landry said there are more opioid overdose deaths in New Orleans than murders. He said there are more opioid prescriptions written in Louisiana than there are people — this is one of only eight states to reach that number.
"Those statistics stand out to you," he said.
State Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said Landry approached him early in 2016 with the idea of effecting a settlement in the Pfizer suit that might leverage the pharmaceutical company's ability to help save Louisianans' lives. Thus, the point of the suit was to get Naloxone doses into the hands of first-responders rather than simply seek a cash payout from the company over Louisiana's lawsuit, which was initiated under former Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
"This is the most unique settlement in the United States," Mills, trained as a pharmacist, said, a solution which he said Landry alone among the nation's 50 attorneys general has put into place. He said Naloxone acts as "an antagonist" to opioid use.
Mills said it's most important to battle opioid deaths and additions because many addicted users are migrating to heroin for a drug choice. He said agencies will obtain Naloxone over time by voucher rather than at all at once because the drug expires after a certain amount of time.
Lafayette Sheriff Mark Garber said first-responders, including deputies, would be trained before administering the drug.