Three major drug distributors and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson are finalizing a $ 26 billion settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits over the country’s opioid crisis, according to four people familiar with the discussions.
The four companies – which include Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, and McKesson – have been accused by states, cities, and counties of playing a significant role in bringing a flood of opioid pain relievers to communities across states. -United. Americans between 2009 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The settlement could be completed as early as this week, according to people familiar with the negotiations, but it would still require the approval of more than 40 states and hundreds of cities and counties. Once finalized, it would translate into billions of dollars going to states to be used for prevention, treatment and recovery.
Paul Geller, a leading lawyer representing cities and counties, described the upcoming settlement as a “game changer” for areas of the country hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
“There is no doubt that we are too late for some families, but you have to start somewhere and start some time and better now to really start making these changes in local areas where it is desperately needed,” said Geller, of the cabinet. Robbins Geller.
The three drug distributors did not respond to requests for comment. They have previously dismissed the claims raised in the pending lawsuits.
Although the financial terms of the settlement have not been finalized, people familiar with the negotiations have said the drug distributors’ share of the settlement could reach $ 21 billion.
Details of the tentative deal were first reported by The New York Times.
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement it has agreed to contribute $ 5 billion towards a final settlement to resolve the lawsuits.
“There is still progress towards finalizing this agreement and we remain committed to providing certainty to parties involved and essential assistance to families and communities in need,” said Johnson & Johnson. “The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the Company will continue to defend itself against any disputes that the final agreement does not resolve.”
In a first step towards a broader deal, the three distributors have struck a deal with New York for around $ 1.1 billion, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said on Tuesday. The regulations do not include an admission of liability.
The companies issued a joint statement, saying they saw the deal as “an important step towards finalizing a general settlement with states, counties and political subdivisions.”
“Distributors remain deeply concerned about the impact of the opioid epidemic on communities across the country and remain committed to being part of the solution,” the statement said.
Some of the money for New York State will be a priority for Nassau and Suffolk counties, which have filed one of the first opioid lawsuits in the country. The money – which is expected to start arriving in cities and counties across New York City in two months – will go towards prevention, treatment and recovery from opioid addiction.
“While no amount of money will ever make up for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths or the countless communities decimated by opioids, that money will be vital to preventing any future devastation,” James said in a statement.
The deal with New York also includes a requirement for companies to pool data on opioid distribution in a national repository overseen by an independent third party. The new clearinghouse is intended to monitor potential opioid hotspots that may emerge. Clearinghouse to dictate “pharmacy-specific opioid shipping limits that every distributor must follow,” James’s office says, and suspicious orders will be flagged for further review by state regulators .
The opioid crisis worsened during the pandemic, government figures show. Overdose deaths hit a record 93,000 last year, up from 72,000 the year before.
“Millions of people across the country are sick or dead from opioid addiction,” nine state attorneys general said in a joint statement.
“State attorneys general have worked hard to negotiate on their behalf for years to force these companies to pay to fight the opioid epidemic they helped create and fuel.”
“Our negotiations are progressing well and are potentially nearing conclusion,” the statement added. “We look forward to bringing much-needed dollars back to our states to help people recover from opioid addiction and fundamentally change the opioid manufacturing and distribution industries so that it never happens again. “