U.S. States to Announce $26 Billion Settlement With Opioid Distributors

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At least 44 U.S. state attorneys general and lawyers are believed to disclose a $26 billion settlement proposal to resolve claims that Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and other opioid-distributing companies were partly responsible for a nationwide opioid epidemic.

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A Complex Civil Lawsuit

As informed by Fox Business, J&J said it would pay $5 billion, while distributors McKesson Corporation (NYSE:MCK), Cardinal Health Inc (NYSE:CAH), and AmerisourceBergen Corp (NYSE:ABC) are expected to pay a combined $21 billion.

More than 40 states are believed to support the settlement and will have over 30 days to determine their participation in the global accord, by persuading their cities and counties to join in.

The three distributors would pay the $21 billion in the course of 18 years, while McKesson has assured that over 90% of the compensation would be destined to tackle the opioid crisis. The remaining 10% will be used to pay legal fees and costs.

The settlement would put an end to one of the most intricate civil lawsuits in recent times as opioid overdose deaths have claimed more than 500,000 lives since 1999, the Washington Post reports.

“The toll continues to climb, with an estimated 69,710 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2020.”

J&J Still Facing Legal Battles

Attorney General Letitia James announced in late June that J&J would stop selling opiates in the U.S. as part of a $230 million settlement with the state of New York. The firm will spread the payment over nine years, she said.

J&J would have to pay an added $30 million during the first year, should New York’s executive chamber enact new legislation for an opioid settlement fund. Although this accord saves J&J from a lawsuit on Long Island, the drugmaker still faces legal proceedings across the country.

The settlement announcement arrived after Johnson & Johnson and other drug makers and distributors were accused of encouraging doctors to overprescribe opioids, originally intended for patients with especially serious cancers, even when they knew they were causing serious addictions.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths with 93,331, up 29% from a year earlier. Opioids were involved in 74.7%, or 69,710, of those overdose deaths, as reported by Reuters.

In mid-July,  Johnson & Johnson also announced the recall of five of its Neutrogena and Aveeno spray sunscreens after finding low traces of benzene in some product samples. The substance is known for causing cancer.