Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Three drug distributors and a drug manufacturer have proposed a $26 billion deal to settle lawsuits with states and small governments.
The deal proposed by McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen and Johnson & Johnson would include $4 billion more than its last offering.
The settlement offer comes as the four companies face thousands of lawsuits from across the country in regard to the their roles in the opioid epidemic. Since 2019, state governments, county governments and municipalities have filed suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors seeking remuneration as their communities continue to deal with opioid addiction and overdoses.
Between 1999 and 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, more than 232,000 Americans died from opioid-related overdoses. And experts predict that opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths will continue to rise during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In September, the American Medical Association said more than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths during the pandemic.
The settlement also comes just weeks after Purdue Pharma and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an $8 billion settlement on that company’s role in the opioid crisis. The lawsuits facing the company led to the company filing for bankruptcy. Purdue’s agreement with the federal government would also result in the dissolving of the company which would then be turned into a public benefit company, any profits from which would be turned over to states and local governments.
Money from the settlements will be used for abatement, as well as for treatment and prevention programs across the country.
States and local governments say in their lawsuits that the companies have some responsibility for the way they handed the manufacture, marketing and distribution of the prescription pain-killers, including how the companies allegedly did not have adequate measures in place to spot problems.
In 2018, a Congressional committee found that the three companies were responsible for shipping nearly 75 percent of the opioids to pharmacies across the country.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee found that over the course of 10 years, 20.8 million opioids were delivered to two pharmacies in Mingo, W.V., a town of 2,900 people in the southern part of the state.
“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement at the time.
The new offer from the four companies comes just a week after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office would go forward with its suit against the pharmaceutical companies in January.
“For more than two decades, the opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on New Yorkers and Americans across the nation. Come next year, the deadly scheme perpetrated by the companies responsible for this national nightmare will be presented in open court and laid bare before the American people, and no one will be able to deny the immoral actions that led us here,” James said in a press release. “We are committed to exposing the illicit conduct that took place and holding each of these companies responsible for their role in the opioid crisis, and will continue fighting for justice for victims.”