The three largest drug distributors in the United States and the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have agreed to pay about $ 26 billion in compensation for their alleged role in the US opioid crisis, which has claimed the lives of nearly half a million people since 1999.
The three distributors agree to pay up to $ 21 billion over 18 years, while the pharmaceutical company will pay up to $ 5 billion over the next 9 years.
The historic agreement will put an end to the lawsuits brought by many states and cities in the country against the four companies and will offer significant funds to support the communities most affected by addiction and drug overdoses.
“Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen not only lit the fuse, but fueled the fire of opioid addictions for more than two decades. Today we are holding these companies accountable and injecting tens of billions of dollars into dollars in communities across the country, “New York State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.
James and prosecutors from several states confirmed this Wednesday the pact, advanced already last Monday by some media, and which for the moment is tentative, since now it is up to each state and locality to pronounce on it.
If a sufficient number of them support it, it will be effective and the signatories will begin to receive payments from the companies.
New York, which on Monday already closed its part of the deal on its own, will receive more than $ 1 billion and, in return, will withdraw the three distributors from a trial currently taking place on Long Island, the first with a jury to be held. takes place in the United States because of the opioid crisis.
Johnson & Johnson, which was also among the defendants, had already escaped the trial after agreeing with the prosecution to pay 230 million dollars and abandon this business.
The agreement announced on Wednesday will resolve disputes involving almost 4,000 entities that have sued J&J, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen in federal and state courts.
Proceedings against other companies
The agreement covers only the four companies in question, so the thousands of actions underway against other companies, including manufacturers and large pharmacy chains, will continue.
In recent years, several companies have already agreed to pay compensation for their responsibility in the crisis.
Currently, there are ongoing lawsuits in New York and California that include companies such as Teva and Allergan, while the large pharmacy chains are awaiting the initiation of proceedings against them in the coming months.
Meanwhile, other companies like Purdue Pharma, considered one of the biggest culprits in the opioid problem as the manufacturer of the popular OxyContin product, have filed for bankruptcy to deal with the huge amounts of money being claimed from them.
According to authorities, between 1999 and 2019 nearly half a million people died in the United States from opioid overdoses.
In 2020, according to data from the US National Center for Health Statistics, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses, an increase of 30% over the previous year, which had already been a record. Of those deaths, 69,710 were attributed to opioid overdoses.