Opioid Settlements Rolling In Across The US
Over the past week, several states have settled lawsuits with Opioid drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies, tallying up over $390 million in total. The states in question (Alabama, New York, West Virginia, and California), have been deeply impacted by the ramifications of the Opioid epidemic, which has led to over 500,000 overdose deaths nationally in the past 2 decades. Among others across the nation, these settlements are the first steps to providing the financial backbone that many states need to rebuild their communities affected by Opioids.
The companies involved in these recent settlements, all of which have denied any wrongdoing, include Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corp, Endo International Plc, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson). The next section of this article will break down who each state settled with and for how much.
State-By-State Breakdown Of Recent Opioid Lawsuits
On Tuesday, Alabama reached $276 million in settlements with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corp, and Endo International Plc. According to the state attorney general, this settlement resolves the claim that these companies fueled an Opioid crisis in the state. Alabama had previously accused McKesson of failing to prevent the diversion of Opioids for illicit use and for downplaying the addictive risks of the prescription Painkillers. Johnson & Johnson stated that its past marketing efforts were “appropriate and responsible,” and the company no longer sells prescription Opioids in the US.
Alabama was one of 4 states that declined to join a nationwide $26 billion settlement of Opioid litigation by McKesson, two other top US distributors, and Johnson & Johnson. If it had agreed to the national settlement, the state would have received $115 million from McKesson over 18 years and $70.3 million from Johnson & Johnson over 9 years. Under this new deal, McKesson will pay $141 million within 9 years, Johnson & Johnson will make full payment within a year, and Endo will pay $25 million.
On Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced that Central New York would receive over $6.3 million from several settlements negotiated in 2019. The settlements involved 6 Opioid manufacturers and 4 distributors, and the funds will be distributed to Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse, $3.7 million and $263,000, respectively. The money received from this settlement is only a part of the original $1.5 billion settlement finalized by the attorney general, who says more money will be coming.
Central New York City was impacted significantly by the Opioid crisis, specifically during the 2020 lockdown. Onondaga County paused most in-person activities related to Opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, and a 7th of the economy was forced to shut down, which placed working individuals on the sidelines, said Onondaga County Executive McMahon.
West Virginia is to receive $99 million in a settlement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. In this Opioid lawsuit, Janssen was accused of overstating the benefits of their prescription drugs while downplaying, or failing to mention entirely, the potential risks of addiction. The drugmaker has faced multiple Opioid lawsuits throughout dozens of communities in the country, but State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said during a news briefing that he believes West Virginia’s settlement is the largest in the country per capita.
West Virginia has long held alarming rates of drug overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the state’s number of fatal overdoses has nearly tripled over the past decade. Additionally, the state has one of the highest rates of non-medical use of prescription Painkillers in 19 to 25-year-olds, with experts testifying in the Janssen case that the rush of prescription Opioids into communities was the driving force behind West Virginia’s drug crisis.
On Wednesday, the city of San Francisco reached a $10 million settlement with Endo, who makes the Opioid Painkiller Percocet. According to City Attorney David Chiu, Endo settled with the city days before an upcoming trial, which claims the drugmaker fueled an Opioid epidemic. While Endo hasn’t marketed Percocet since 2016, a 2018 lawsuit filed by San Francisco claims that the company “flooded” the community with prescription Opioids without corrective measures to prevent the drugs from being diverted to illegal use.
Along with the Endo company, the lawsuit filed by San Francisco also targeted Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, and AmerisourceBergen Corp. To date, Endo has agreed to pay over $300 million in Opioid settlements to local and state governments, including San Francisco.
Settlement Money To Be Used For Recovery And Prevention
The funds from these settlements provide financial support for states and cities to rebuild the communities that the Opioid epidemic has deeply impacted. The use of the millions will go well beyond sopping up the damage caused by over-prescription, questionable marketing practices, and illicit use of Opioids; communities hope to stop addiction before it starts. Beyond funding treatment programs for those with an OUD, many communities are planning to use the funds for Opioid prevention and education to reduce the risk of addiction for the youth and individuals throughout the community.
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For example, in Central New York, Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse will use the settlement money to treat individuals with an OUD, to reduce the number of people dying of overdoses, and to give young people additional resources to teach them about the dangers of drugs, specifically Opioids. The settlement money supplied to the states and communities across the US is a necessary step in healing and treating individuals who have suffered at the hands of the Opioid epidemic that has in part been fueled by Opioid drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies.
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