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.

Er­ic Schmitt

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.

William Tong

“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.

Lau­ren Es­pos­i­to

“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.

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