Drugmaker to pay record sum in opioid settlements — Analysis

Johnson & Johnson, along with three distributors, must pay out to local governments across the US

Johnson & Johnson, as well as distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, announced on Friday that they would pay out a combined $26 billion to state and local governments in the US affected by the ongoing opioid epidemic. This settlement, which together make the largest ever for opioids in history, will not be challenged by the courts.

The plan for settlement was revealed amid numerous opioid lawsuits. But it relied on the participation of enough local and state governments. Friday’s announcement by the companies was that enough people had signed up and they would begin to distribute the money starting in April.

Motley Rice law firm estimates that more than 26,000 communities will be paid out of $26 billion in settlement funds. 90% of these funds are earmarked for community projects. “treatment, education, intervention, screening, recovery and prevention efforts that are needed to curb the crisis.”90 percent of America’s population is represented by 3,200 localities that sued drug corporations.

Native American tribes win $590 million opioid settlement

However, the settlement means that the vast majority of the US will not be able to take further legal action against Johnson & Johnson and the distributors.

There are separate suits being brought in Washington State and West Virginia by the municipalities. The drug companies have reached a $590 million agreement with over 400 Native American tribes earlier in this month.

The United States is now plagued by opioid addiction. In 2021, overdose deaths reached 100,000. Opioid addiction was responsible for 75,000 more deaths than the 56,000 deaths in 2018. American Families Against Fentanyl estimates that between 2020-2021, 78,795 Americans between the ages of 18-45 died due to overdosing with this strong synthetic opioid. According to the group, Fentanyl kills more people between 18 and 45 than suicide, Covid-19 and accidents in cars and ought to be considered a weapon against mass destruction.

The drug manufacturers are to blame for the opioid addiction. While most Fentanyl used in the US is imported illegally. Two major opioid firms, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma, have been on the receiving end of multibillion dollar lawsuits in recent years, but J&J pioneered the development of these drugs back in the 1980s, and in 2015 was the US’ main supplier of the raw ingredients used to make pain pills like Oxycontin.

“As monumental as this accomplishment is, we must remember that we are still only in the beginning phases of this complex litigation,”Joseph Rice, Motley Rice’s attorney wrote a blog entry on Friday. “The opioid supply chain is massive and numerous other companies and parties have yet to answer for their role in creating this crisis of addiction.”

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