New York – The nation’s three largest drug distributors and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have agreed to pay about $ 26 billion in compensation for their alleged role in the opioid crisis, authorities announced Wednesday.
The historic agreement will put an end to lawsuits brought by numerous states and cities against the four companies and will offer significant funds to support the communities most affected by addiction and drug overdoses.
“Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen not only lit the fuse, they fueled the fire of opioid addiction for more than two decades. Today, we are holding these companies accountable and injecting tens of billions of dollars into communities across the country, “New York State Attorney General Letitita James said in a statement.
James and prosecutors from several states confirmed the pact, already advanced this Monday by some media, and which for the moment is tentative, since now it is up to each state and locality to pronounce on it.
If a sufficient number of them support it, it will be effective and the signatories will begin to receive payments from the companies.
New York, which closed its part of the deal on its own Monday, will receive more than $ 1 billion and, in exchange, will withdraw the three distributors from a trial currently underway on Long Island, the first with a jury to be held. carried out in the United States by the opioid crisis.
Johnson & Johnson, which was also among the defendants, had already escaped the trial after agreeing with the prosecution to pay $ 230 million and abandon this business.
The settlement announced today will resolve lawsuits from nearly 4,000 entities that have sued J&J, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen in federal and state courts.
The three distributors agree to pay up to $ 21 billion over 18 years, while the pharmaceutical company will pay up to $ 5 billion over the next nine years.
The agreement covers only the four companies in question, so the thousands of actions underway against other companies, including manufacturers or large pharmacy chains, will continue.
In recent years, several companies have already agreed to pay compensation for their responsibility in the crisis.
Currently, there are ongoing lawsuits in New York and California that include companies such as Teva or Allergan, while the large pharmacy chains are pending the initiation of proceedings against them in the coming months.
Meanwhile, other companies, such as Purdue Pharma, considered one of the biggest culprits in the opioid problem as the manufacturer of the popular OxyContin product, have filed for bankruptcy to deal with the huge amounts of money being claimed from them.
According to authorities, between 1999 and 2019 nearly half a million people died in the United States from opioid overdoses.
In 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses, a 30% increase over the previous year, which had already been a record.
Of those deaths, 69,710 were attributed to opioid overdoses.