The United States has unveiled a $ 26 billion package with four drug companies to solve thousands of opiate cases, ending years of legal battles over a painkiller crisis that has devastated communities across the country.
The United States including New York and Pennsylvania on Wednesday announced agreements with the country’s three largest drug distributors – McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen – and Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare company.
U opioid epidemic it has made more than half a million lives in the United States in the last 20 years and has torn families apart. Faced with a growing bill to deal with the repercussions, government officials have filed thousands of lawsuits saying various drugs and distributors have fueled the crisis.
“These companies have continued to profit from misery, death and destruction across the country and today we have put an end to them,” said Letitia James, attorney general of New York. He added that companies have benefited “without any respect for human life and for the national crisis they have caused.”
States say Wednesday’s opioid settlement was the second-largest deal in U.S. history after the deal with tobacco companies in 1998.
“This epidemic was caused by an army of pharmaceutical executives and drug distributors who have decided they want to pursue their bottom lines on the health and safety and well-being of people,” said Josh Shapiro, attorney general for Pennsylvania.
He added that the establishment “puts in place controls that will go a long way to ensure that this never happens again.”
Nearly $ 24 billion will be used to reduce the damage from opioid dependence while the rest will be spent on state legal fees and other costs.
States have 30 days to decide whether they want to sign up to the establishment, after which companies can decide whether sufficient numbers have been accepted for the start of payments.
“The agreement does not specify a certain number of states or cities and countries,” said Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general, adding that he expected more than 40 states to agree to the agreement.
Over the next 18 years AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health will pay $ 6.4 billion each, while McKesson will pay $ 7.9 billion and J&J will pay $ 5 billion.
“We recognize that the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for all those affected,” said Michael Ullmann, general counsel at J&J. “This establishment directly supports state and local efforts to make significant progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the United States.”
Purdue Pharma, the creator of OxyContin – the pill that has become synonymous with the opioid crisis – was not part of the deal Wednesday.
The company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 amid a deluge of lawsuits, is trying to resolve the disputes via the separate process.