Native Americans are set to receive $590 million in opioid settlement funds.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J), McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen have reached a settlement out of Cleveland, Ohio, with Native American tribal communities over the opioid epidemic that totals nearly $600 million. All 574 federally recognized tribes are eligible to receive part of the settlement, even if they did not file legal action against any of the companies. As part of the deal, J&J and its subsidiary, Janssen, would pay out $150 million over two years while the distributors would pay roughly $440 million over seven years.
“This is an historic settlement that goes a small but important distance toward addressing a killing epidemic that devastated tribal communities,” said Lloyd Miller, one of the lead tribal attorneys. “It is historic because at long last Tribes and States are standing shoulder to shoulder in addressing mass disasters.”
Fifteen percent of the settlement’s funds are set to go towards attorney’s fees while the remaining 85 percent will be spent on “drug treatment and related abatement programs,” according to court documents. These treatment options would be made available to the communities impacted by the crisis. The settlement cites that “95% of litigating tribes and 14 of 17 non-litigating tribes with populations exceeding 5,000 tribal members” must sign on for the deal to take effect.
J&J said the proposed settlement “is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing and that its marketing and promotion of opioids was appropriate and responsible.” It also noted that it no longer markets opioids.
AmerisourceBergen said the deal “will both expedite the flow of resources to communities impacted by the crisis while enabling AmerisourceBergen to focus on ensuring the pharmaceutical supply chain is meeting the needs of health care providers and patients.”
The same four companies are almost in the final approval stage of a $26 billion settlement with state and local governments – a deal that was made after two years. In New York alone “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 state is one of those that will receive funds as part of that agreement.
New York attorney general Letitia James said at the time of the state’s settlement proposal, “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.”
Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, issued a joint statement at the same 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, after the state’s deal is finalized, will be receiving oversight from a third-party provider that will monitor the how many opioids are being supplied to pharmacies across the U.S.