Pharma companies reach $26B civil opioid settlement

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The country's three major drug distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — along with Johnson & Johnson have reached a $26 billion deal with states and local governments that would release the drug companies from all civil liability related to the opioid epidemic, The New York Times reported. 

Under the deal, announced July 21 by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, billions of dollars would go to communities across the country to pay for addiction treatment, prevention services and other expenses related to the opioid epidemic. 

The three distributors would make payments totaling $21 billion over 18 years, and Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion over nine years. The distributors would also have to pay for a clearinghouse to share information about their shipments of controlled substances for a decade. 

The thousands of lawsuits accuse the drug companies of failing to flag and halt suspicious orders of opioid pills delivered to communities around the U.S. 

If the deal is finalized, the states and thousands of local governments would drop all lawsuits against the four drug companies and pledge not to file any future lawsuits, the Times reported. The companies and their executives could still face criminal charges. 

A majority of the states have to agree to the deal for it to be finalized. The states and Washington D.C. have 30 days to review the deal.

In a joint statement, the three distributors said: "While the companies strongly dispute the allegations made in these lawsuits, they believe the proposed settlement agreement and settlement process it establishes are important steps toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States," according to the Times

A separate deal is still being negotiated between the four companies and Native American tribes. Other opioid lawsuits involving drug manufacturers and pharmacies remain unresolved. 

The agreement comes as opioid deaths hit a record high in 2020, with 93,000 reported overdose deaths, a 30 percent jump from 2019. 

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