J&J, Drug Distributors’ $26B Opioid Settlement Is Finalized

 Johnson & Johnson, three major drug distributors and attorneys representing local governments in the nationwide litigation over the opioid epidemic said a $26 billion settlement agreement has enough participation from states to go forward. 

The deal with J&J, AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., which ends the bulk of the suits taking aim at the opioid crisis, was initially announced in July and required enough participation from states and local governments to meet the companies’ satisfaction.

Now 46 out of the 49 eligible states, Washington, D.C., all eligible territories and 90% of the eligible local governments that have sued over the opioid crisis have signed on to the deal.

The state of West Virginia had already settled with the companies; Alabama, Oklahoma and Washington — which is currently trying its case against the distributors — chose not to settle.

Native American tribes also reached a deal worth nearly $590 million with Johnson & Johnson and the distributors earlier this month.

Under the terms of the settlement, 85% of the funds must be directed to addressing the opioid crisis through treatment, education and prevention.

Over the next 18 years, the drug distributors will pay up to $21 billion. They also dispute the allegations that lax monitoring of opioid shipments contributed to the crisis.

J&J will pay up to $5 billion and has already agreed to stop making opioids. It, too, does not admit liability.

While the deal ends litigation against J&J and the distributors, litigation against other players in the opioid supply chain continues.

An Ohio federal judge is set to determine how much CVS, Walgreens and Walmart must pay for their part in causing the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties in a bench trial starting in May, after a jury found last year that they were liable in a federal bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation over the crisis.

And another bellwether trial pitting the city of San Francisco against pharmacies is set to start April 25.

Meanwhile, a West Virginia federal judge is still set to decide whether the distributors should be held liable for the opioid crisis in another bellwether case brought by Cabell County and the city of Huntington in a trial that ended in July.

LAW360: https://www.law360.com/articles/1468378/j-j-drug-distributors-26b-opioid-settlement-is-finalized

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