Nevade, a holdout state, joins that proposed opioid settlement.
The state of Nevada has agreed to a proposed nationwide settlement worth up to $26 billion that will resolve lawsuits against three major drug distributors (McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc.) and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) related to their involved in the U.S. opioid crisis. Nevada was previously among the small number of holdout states, refusing to join the deal when it was originally announced.
Those who had accepted the terms of the settlement agreed to extend the deadline for others to join to January 26. Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said he was “optimistic” the state’s local governments would join, allowing Nevada to receive more than $285 million in total.
“There is no question that the opioid epidemic has devastated Nevada and money is needed now to address comprehensive statewide remediation,” he said.
J&J agreed to a $63 million settlement with Nevada as part of its agreed upon $5 billion to settle all allegations against it. Paul Hanly, a lead attorney for local governments pursuing federal lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, previously said plaintiffs were “very pleased with J&J’s agreement to resolve the cases…We are hopeful other companies defending the numerous litigations will see the wisdom of this step forward.”
Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and J&J’s general counsel, said at the time of the drugmaker’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.”
As part of the same deal, distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen will pay a combined $18 billion. These companies have not disclosed what their payouts to Nevada, specifically, will be. The distributors said last fall that “42 states, five territories and Washington, D.C., had agreed to participate in their…settlement.” All of the companies involved have denied any wrongdoing.
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 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 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.”
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.”
J&J issued a statement saying, “The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve. The settlement will provide certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for families and communities in need.”