Prescription opioid painkillers can bring relief to those with serious pain but have also sparked an epidemic of addiction, overdoses, and accidental deaths. The companies that made, distributed, and pushed these drugs are finally being held to account for all the damage caused. Several states have reached agreements with some of them to pay damages amounting to billions of dollars.
$26 Billion Settlement with Johnson & Johnson, Others
Most recently, a group of state attorneys general reached a deal with four companies to provide $26 billion for addiction treatment and recovery programs. They accused these companies of continuing to market and distribute opioids while the number of overdose deaths and people addicted rose astronomically.
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion of the settlement. The remainder will be split between three drug distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.
The states involved have 30 days from the offer of the settlement to agree to it. Local governments in each state will have 150 days to join the agreement and get funds. Those agreeing to the deal must suspend lawsuits against the companies involved. The final amount of the settlement paid depends on how many states and governments agree.
The companies admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to contribute funds to support efforts to end the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson also agreed to stop manufacturing and selling opioids.
Not all states are on board with the plan. West Virginia does not support it. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey takes issue with how the plan will distribute the funds. It does not account for aid based on need, only population. He plants to continue to litigate against the drug companies.
15 States Reach Deal with Purdue Pharma
Another company heavily involved in the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma, made and marketed OxyContin. Many experts blame the company and OxyContin for triggering the opioid drug crisis. Fifteen states reached a deal with the company for $4.5 billion. This would resolve thousands of lawsuits against Purdue.
As with the companies in the other settlement, Purdue Pharma has refused to admit fault. In addition to the funds, the company agreed to hand over documents, including emails and other communications with lawyers. The money for the settlement will come from the Sacklers, the family that owns Purdue and that is worth more than $11 billion.
The agreement is part of a bankruptcy reorganization for Purdue. The federal government has criticized the plan, saying that it denies too many victims the right to due process. Despite the opposition, many states are prepared to sign on to the deal. The agreement bars further civil lawsuits but does not prevent states from seeking criminal charges against the Sacklers or Purdue.
The opioid crisis has impacted millions of Americans and killed hundreds of thousands. The companies responsible for pushing drugs they knew caused harm now must pay to help treat the remaining victims. The billions of dollars will go to communities and programs that support victims and are intended to help curb the crisis.