Steven Senne / AP
A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general on Wednesday announced a $ 26 billion nationwide settlement with four U.S. companies that manufacture and distribute opioid pain relievers even as drug addiction and overdose deaths skyrocket.
“The opioid epidemic has torn apart families and killed thousands of North Carolinians,” said Attorney General Josh Stein, a key negotiator.
Stein said the deal “will force these drug companies to pay a historic sum of money to provide much needed treatment and recovery services” to North Carolina and other states that have signed the settlement.
States will now have 30 days to decide whether to accept the deal. Local governments will have 150 days to sign.
The final amount of payments by companies will depend on how many governments agree to stay their opioid lawsuits.
The three drug distributors will spread their payments of $ 21 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson will provide $ 5 billion over 9 years.
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson – which will pay around $ 5 billion – said the settlement “will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in tackling the opioid crisis.”
J&J has again denied any wrongdoing in its manufacture and marketing of opioids, calling its actions “appropriate and responsible”.
However, as part of this deal, J&J agreed to no longer manufacture opioid drugs.
The company voluntarily stopped sales of prescription opioids last year.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, state attorneys general noted the devastating loss of life in the United States since the pharmaceutical industry began aggressively marketing opioid pain relievers in the late 1990s. .
Overdose deaths hit a new high of 93,000 in 2020, mainly due to the increase in deaths related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl.