Drug distributors, J&J agree to finalize $26 billion opioid settlement

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The three largest U.S. drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson have agreed to finalize a proposed $26 billion settlement resolving claims that they helped gasoline the U.S. opioid epidemic. (Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON — The three largest U.S. drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson have agreed to finalize a proposed $26 billion settlement resolving claims by states — together with Utah — and native governments that they helped gasoline the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Well being together with J&J had till Friday to determine whether or not sufficient cities and counties nationally had opted to hitch the landmark settlement to justify transferring ahead with it.

The deal goals to resolve round 3,000 lawsuits by state and native governments searching for to carry the businesses chargeable for an opioid abuse disaster that has led to a whole lot of hundreds of overdose deaths in the USA over the past 20 years.

The distributors and J&J in separate statements on Friday confirmed they’d decided there was “adequate” participation to maneuver ahead with the settlement, which was first introduced in July. They don’t seem to be admitting wrongdoing.

The announcement paves the way in which for the businesses to start making funds to the governments in April, cash that officers say will likely be used to fund therapy and different applications geared toward addressing the well being disaster.

“Due to the cash, there will likely be individuals alive subsequent yr who in any other case would have died,” North Carolina Lawyer Common Josh Stein, a lead settlement negotiator, stated in an interview.

The lawsuits accuse the distributors of lax controls that allowed huge quantities of addictive painkillers to be diverted into unlawful channels and that drugmakers, together with J&J, downplayed the danger of habit when advertising and marketing the ache medicines.

The proposed settlement requires the distributors to pay as much as $21 billion over 18 years and for J&J to pay as much as $5 billion over 9 years. About $2.3 billion is put aside to cowl charges and bills of plaintiffs’ legal professionals and state attorneys basic.

“Billions of {dollars} are actually going to circulate to therapy, restoration, schooling and abating this public well being disaster,” stated Paul Geller, a lawyer for native governments at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd.

Most states are settling. All 4 corporations proceed to face claims in Alabama, Oklahoma, Washington and West Virginia, whereas New Hampshire didn’t settle with J&J. The businesses lately additionally agreed to settle with Native American tribes.


Due to the cash, there will likely be individuals alive subsequent yr who in any other case would have died.

–Josh Stein, North Carolina Lawyer Common


Peter Mougey, a plaintiffs’ lawyer on the legislation agency Levin Papantonio concerned within the negotiations, stated over 7,000 native governments opted into the settlement. “Virtually 40 states are 99% or greater,” he stated of participation inside the states.

It’s seemingly the most important, although not the final, settlement to consequence from opioid litigation.

This month, the Sackler household homeowners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in its chapter proposed a revised settlement price as much as $6 billion that may resolve claims the corporate fueled the epidemic. Drugmaker Mallinckrodt this month received chapter court docket approval for a $1.7 billion settlement.

Different drugmakers like Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. in addition to main pharmacy chains stay in litigation. Talks with these corporations are ongoing, Stein stated.

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