J&J, drug distributors sign off on a mammoth $26B opioid settlement with 46 states
Three major drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson have the numbers they need to move forward with a mammoth settlement that will lay to rest a majority of the state and local opioid lawsuits filed against them.
Of 49 eligible states, 46 — plus DC — have agreed to join the settlement, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson announced on Friday. More than 90% of eligible political subdivisions agreed to participate or had their claims addressed by state legislation.
The three distributors will contribute up to $19.5 billion over the next 18 years to communities affected by the opioid epidemic, which is more than a billion dollars less than they proposed back in July. J&J will also kick in $5 billion to settle claims against it, the same amount it negotiated this summer.
The three states not joining the settlement are Alabama, Oklahoma and Washington, and West Virginia has already settled. The companies have also settled with the Cherokee Nation, and have a separate settlement in place with other tribes, in which they agreed to pay up to $590 million.
Despite agreeing to shell out billions of dollars, all of the companies still deny allegations surrounding their roles in the opioid crisis.
“While the companies continue to strongly dispute the allegations made against them, they believe that the implementation of this settlement is a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” the three distributors said in a statement.
Some states have committed to using their portion of the settlement funds to tackle the epidemic through the funding of resources like treatment centers, including Missouri, which expects to get around $458 million from J&J and the three distributors.
“This settlement won’t bring our loved ones back, it won’t provide any solace for those losses, but it can bring desperately needed resources to treatment centers, rehab facilities, law enforcement, and others who are on the frontlines of fighting this opioid epidemic in our state,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a news release last week.
Connecticut AG William Tong has also agreed to use the settlement funds to abate the crisis, including for “Naloxone, medication-assisted treatment, prevention programs, education, training, and research.”
The news comes as members of the Sackler family look to sweeten their offer to settle opioid litigation surrounding their company Purdue Pharma and the pain relief drug OxyContin, after a judge tossed out their $4.5 billion settlement deal in December.
Last week, Democratic senators called on the DOJ to investigate whether the Sacklers personally engaged in criminal conduct in connection with Purdue Pharma and the opioid epidemic.
“By moving forward with the settlement, we can avoid years of prolonged litigation, expedite the movement of resources to communities impacted by opioid misuse and allow our company to do what we do best – ensuring that health care facilities have access to the medications that patients and care providers need when they need it most,” AmerisourceBergen spokesperson Lauren Esposito told Endpoints News on Friday.
Under the settlement, AmerisourceBergen will pay up to $6.1 billion, Cardinal will contribute up to $6 billion, and McKesson is on the hook for up to $7.4 billion over the next 18 years.