Several State Attorney Generals announced Wednesday a $26 billion settlement with pharmaceutical distributors and a manufacturer of prescription opioids in an effort to bring relief to those struggling with opioid addiction.
After several years of investigation against many companies to "hold accountable those responsible" and change industry practices for the better, final agreements have been made with four of those companies, the AGs say.
The agreement includes Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen - along with Johnson & Johnson. The agreements resolve legal claims against those companies in return for their payment of $26 billion and their commitment to make "major changes in how they do business to improve safety and oversight over the distribution of prescription opioid."
Negotiations with the companies were led by a bipartisan 14-state committee, including AGs Josh Stein (NC) and Herbert Slatery (TN), along with the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The agreement resolves the claims of both states and local governments nationwide, including the nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. The three distributors will collectively pay up to $21 billion over 18 years, with Johnson & Johnson paying up to $5 billion over nine years.
Most of the money will be spent on opioid treatment and prevention; each state's share has been determined using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state, the AGs say.
The 10-year settlement will result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to not provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids, stop selling opioids, and more.
The Attorneys General announced the agreement Wednesday, which was livestreamed on YouTube. The entire stream can be viewed below.
"Collectively, this is an opportunity in which we rose up, realized we had an obligation to our citizens," said Louisiana AG Jeff Landry. "I'm proud to stand here with these friends in fashioning this settlement, finally bringing some relief to those impacted by this addiction."
According to Landry, Louisiana is one of the top 10 states to be effected by the opioid epidemic.
AG Landry said that Louisiana's portion of the funds will go "directly to those effected," and after being asked for clarification, explained that a bill was recently vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards that would have sent funds to the Drug and Specialty Court Fund. According to Landry, the bill, SB145, would have addressed addiction and crime at the same time, but said the state is now going "back to the drawing board" after the veto.
"This money must go down and address addiction," he added. "The sooner we address the addiction portion, the sooner we'll be out of the epidemic."
Read more about the settlement here.
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