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Opioid Drugs

Distributors Seek State Approval of Proposed Opioid Settlement

— July 23, 2021

Opioid distributors announce proposed deal to resolve nationwide allegations.

Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, three of the largest opioid distributors, are set to pay $26 billion in total to settle the cases brought against them for their alleged role in the epidemic, and New York will get more than $1 billion dollars from the deal alone.  The agreement comes after drug maker Johnson & Johnson settled the cases against it for $230 million.  However, approval is still be sought by enough states to finalized the deal.

Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and general counsel of Johnson & Johnson, said at the time of J&J’s settlement, “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected.  This settlement will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the United States.”

Letitia James, the New York State attorney general was part of a bipartisan group of state attorneys general who announced statewide deal as well as a larger, multijurisdictional settlement.  New York’s lawsuit is the first of its kind to go to a jury trial and to target the entire opioid supply chain.  Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, and Allergan Finance, all remain at trial in the state.

Distributors Seek State Approval of Proposed Opioid Settlement
Photo by Henrikas Mackevicius from Pexels

The $26 billion U.S. settlement was made after two years, and more than 3,000 lawsuits filed by states, counties, municipalities, and tribal communities.  In New York, “3,000 people were killed by opioids in both their street and prescribed forms in 2018,” according to the New York State Department of Health, underscoring the importance of funding addiction prevention and treatment.

“The urgency of the problem continues,” said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III of Tennessee of the ever-climbing overdose death rates. “It’s just relentless.”

The agreement is awaiting approval from enough plaintiffs, and if successful, the money will be used to help communities recover from the epidemic and prevent future devastation.

“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths or the countless communities decimated by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing any future devastation,” James said.

Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, issued a joint statement saying that they “strongly dispute the allegations at issue in the trial,” but “believe this resolution will allow the companies to focus their attention and resources on the safe and secure delivery of medications and therapies while delivering meaningful relief to affected communities.”  The three companies will receive oversight from a third-party provider that will monitor the amount of opioids being supplied to pharmacies across the U.S.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and its owners, members of the Sackler family, are currently negotiating a settlement of at least $4.5 billion as part of a bankruptcy restructuring.

“Our focus remains on the ongoing trial against the remaining defendants and ensuring they are held accountable for their actions,” Jayne Conroy, an attorney for Suffolk County, commented.

The number of states that will have to sign onto the deal was not specified.  If the settlement doesn’t go as planned and there is not enough approval, litigation will continue.


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