Drug maker Johnson & Johnson and three large US drug distributors will proceed with a proposed $26 billion settlement. This resolving claims that they fueled the opioid epidemic after “enough” states joined in. The companies said on Saturday. The distributors said 42 states, five territories and Washington, D.C., signed on to their agreement. Alabama, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Washington, West Virginia are not participating in the settlement.
The companies will make their first annual settlement payment into escrow on or before Sept. 30. The final amount will depend on several factors, including the final participation rate of states and political subdivisions, they added. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a lead settlement negotiator, called the support level a “remarkable showing of unity and commitment across the country to address this problem.”. The settlement’s complex formula envisioned at least 44 states participating. However ultimately the companies got to decide whether a “critical mass” had joined and whether to finalize the deal. Cities and counties within participating states have through Jan. 2 to join as well. Similarly, $10.7 billion tied to the extent localities participate.
The deal, unveiled by 14 state attorneys general on July 21, is designed to resolve more than 3,000 lawsuits accusing the distributors of ignoring red flags that pain pills were being diverted into communities for illicit uses and that J&J played down the risks of opioid addiction. The money would fund treatment and other services. The companies deny wrongdoing, saying the drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and that responsibility for ballooning painkiller sales lies with doctors, regulators and others.