Companies Finalize $26 Billion Deal With States and Cities to End Opioid Lawsuits
Under the agreements, the state will receive its full distribution if all of its local governments sign off on the deal. For example, all of North Carolina’s 100 counties and 47 municipalities have agreed, and the state will receive its $750 million appropriations.
“North Carolina communities will begin receiving money this year to help people struggling with substance abuse,” said Josh Stein, state attorney general and leader of a bipartisan state coalition that has been negotiating with companies and local governments for nearly three years. . “Treatment, recovery, prevention, and harm reduction services that will be available statewide will help people regain control of their lives and make North Carolina safer.”
Several states and localities, including Washington, Oklahoma, and Alabama, remain opposed to distributors or Johnson & Johnson. But legal experts say such a stance could be dangerous: The results of several completed trials point to favorable outcomes for companies, suggesting that continuing to fight those governments that backed out of the deal is risk companies are willing to take.
This month, the same companies announced a tentative settlement with Native American tribes who suffered disproportionate addiction and mortality during the opioid epidemic. Combined with a $75 million deal that distributors struck with Cherokee Nation last fall, the 574 federally recognized tribes could receive $665 million in payments over nine years. The vast majority of the tribes are expected to sign the proposal.
A major theme in the opioid trial was aggressive drug marketing, which went largely unchecked for years. Distributors almost never fired flares when pharmacy customers received supplies of opioids in quantities clearly disproportionate to the local population. The main feature of the new deal is that distributors must set up an independent clearinghouse to track and report each other’s shipments, a mechanism designed to immediately raise the alarm when bulky orders are made.
The settlement negotiations also saw the unfolding of the second series of negotiations between states and local governments to allocate funds. So far, about two dozen states have developed their own distribution plans with local cities and counties, which have also sued the companies.
The Legal Executive Committee, which included Joe Rice, Elizabeth Cab rather and Jane Conroy, who negotiated for local governments, released a statement saying: “We have come to this point after years of community leaders across the country taking on commit themselves to finding the means they need to combat the opioid epidemic.”
They continued: “While this is a vital step, it is only one of many that are needed to end this crisis.”