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Ohio AG announces $26B settlement with major drug companies that fueled opioid epidemic

The settlement was made with three of the largest distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson.
The settlement was made with three of the largest distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson.
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 2:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a $26 billion nationwide agreement with the three distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

Overview of the settlement funding:

  • The three distributors collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 17 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • The total funding distributed will be determined by the overall participation of both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments.
  • The substantial portion of the money must be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.
  • Each state’s share of the funding has been determined by agreement among the states using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state – the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder, and the number of opioids prescribed – and the population of the state.

In addition to the monetary settlement, distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids, must also make significant changes to help prevent a similar crisis from ever happening again, Yost said.

“This isn’t an antidote for this devastating crisis that killed so many, but the financial resources will provide for significant recovery in Ohio,” he said in a news release. “The funds are necessary for the healing process that our communities desperately need, and the guardrails these companies are now required to implement will help make sure that these companies will provide a break in the system, so that those individuals who need medication can receive it without flooding our communities.”

Gov. Mike DeWine says the settlement has the potential to help Ohioans in their battle against opioids.

“Thanks to the work from our nation’s attorneys general, the opioid makers and distributors that tore Ohio’s families apart are being held accountable and will support communities in their recovery,” DeWine said in a statement.

Overview of the 10-year agreement court orders for Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of suspicious opioid orders and report such suspicious orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.

Overview of the 10-year agreement court orders for Johnson & Johnson:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

The settlement stems from investigations by Yost and other state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

The agreement resolves the investigations and litigation related to the companies’ roles in the epidemic.

According to Yost, from 2010 to 2019, opioid overdoses claimed more than 23,700 Ohioans.

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