$26 billion opioid settlement to be unveiled this week in US

pharmafile | July 20, 2021 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing  

US state attorneys general are set to unveil a $26 billion settlement this week, aimed at three major drug distributors and drug maker Johnson & Johnson, amid claims they helped to fuel a nationwide opioid epidemic.

Under the settlement, distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp, would pay a combined $21 billion, while Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion.

The distributors stand accused of lax controls that consequently allowed massive amounts of addictive painkillers to be diverted into illegal channels, devastating communities, while J&J was accused of downplaying the addiction risk.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the US between 1999 to 2019, with the crisis only deepening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC last week said provisional data showed that 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths with 93,331, up 29% from a year earlier. Opioids were involved in 74.7%, or 69,710, of those overdose deaths.

The ultimate settlement payout could fluctuate depending on the number of states and political subdivisions that agree to or reject the deal and pursue litigation on their own in hopes of a bigger payout down the line.

More than 40 states are expected to support the nationwide settlement, and states will have 30 days to decide whether to join the global accord then more time to try to convince their cities and counties to participate in the deal, it has been reported.

McKesson has previously stated that of the $21 billion the three distributors would pay over 18 years, more than 90% would be used to remediate the opioid crisis while the rest, about $2 billion, would be used to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs.

In a statement, J&J said: “There continues to be progress toward finalizing this agreement and we remain committed to providing certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for families and communities in need.”

Other settlements are also being negotiated, with the opioid makers Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt, now working through the bankruptcy courts to secure support for settlements worth more than $10 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.

Kat Jenkins

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