Lawyers involved in a potential multi-billion dollar settlement linked to the opioid crisis in the United States say a deal between drug companies and a group of state and local governments could be announced this week.
The agreement will involve drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the three largest drug distribution companies in the United States — Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
The financial portion of the settlement is expected to be $26 billion, although this amount could be lower if some jurisdictions are in favor of seeking their own legal action against the companies.
State and local governments have argued that companies made huge profits as highly addictive prescription opioids spread across the country leaving those local jurisdictions to deal with the consequences.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths, with more than 93,000, according to preliminary data. Of those, nearly three-quarters involved opioids.
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As part of the expected settlement, Johnson & Johnson will agree not to produce opioids for at least 10 years, and the company said in a statement that it is prepared to contribute as much as $5 billion.
“Progress continues to finalize this agreement and we remain committed to providing certainty for the parties involved and providing critical support for families and communities,” the company said. “The settlement is not an acknowledgment of liability or wrongdoing, and the company will continue to defend against any lawsuit that the final settlement does not resolve.”
Another part of the settlement will be the creation of a new national system to track opioid shipments. An independent third-party will monitor the system in an effort to prevent cases of mass shipments of opioids flooding some areas.
The attorney generals of 10 states issued a statement on Tuesday saying that settlement negotiations are “probably nearing completion.”
“We look forward to bringing much-needed dollars to our states to help people overcome opioid addiction and fundamentally transform the opioid manufacturing and distribution industries,” the statement said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced a $1.18 billion settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. The state then signed a $230 million deal with Johnson & Johnson in June.
Some information for this report has been obtained from The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters