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Johnson & Johnson, other distributors to pay $26 billion in opioid settlement

Johnson & Johnson and three other major drug distributors on Friday finalized a historic $26 billion settlement in an opioid lawsuit brought against the companies.

The settlement agreement with Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson means billions of dollars will flow to state and local governments across the U.S., according to company press releases.

The drug distributors were sued by thousands of state and local governments for allegedly shipping opioids to communities despite clear signs they were dangerous for people and leading to overdoses.

Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion as part of the settlement agreement, the company announced in a press release on Friday, but noted it was not an admission of guilt.

“This settlement agreement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing, and the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that this final settlement agreement does not resolve,” Johnson & Johnson said. “The Company no longer sells prescription opioid medications in the United States as part of our ongoing efforts to focus on transformational innovation and serving unmet patient needs.”

AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson will pay a collective total of $19.5 billion to be paid out over 18 years to 46 states and Washington, D.C., according to a press release from McKesson on Friday. The company said Alabama, Oklahoma and Washington chose not to participate.

“While the companies continue to strongly dispute the allegations made against them, they believe that the implementation of this settlement is a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” the statement reads.

All four companies also agreed earlier this month to a $665 million settlement with Native American tribes.

When the $26 billion settlement for state and local governments was first announced in July, Joe Schrank, the director of The Heavenly Center for addiction treatment, told The Hill it was simply a “slap on the wrist.”

“Sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually not right,” Schrank said on Hill.TV. “So $26 billion over 18 years — it’s really kind of a slap on the wrist for these pharmaceutical companies that make massive, incredible amounts of money.

“It’s actually a slap in the face of every grieving family that’s lost somebody to an overdose,” he continued. “We’re in a peak — we’re in a fever pitch of overdose. We’ve had 90,000 overdose deaths in 2020. That’s the highest on record, this isn’t really going anywhere.”

Nearly 841,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 1999, ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids are considered the “main driver” of drug overdose deaths.

Tags AmerisourceBergen Cardinal Health and McKesson johnson & johnson Johnson & Johnson opioid lawsuit Opioids settlement Settlement

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