A group of attorneys general from several US states unveiled a landmark settlement proposal in which four large pharmaceutical companies accused of fueling the country’s opioid epidemic would pay up to $ 26 billion to settle thousands of claims in federal court. and state, review Reuters.
Under the proposed settlement, which still requires the support of thousands of local governments, the three largest U.S. drug distributors, McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp, are expected to pay a combined $ 21 billion. dollars, while the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson would pay 5 billion dollars.
The funds will be used to resolve some 4,000 claims and finance prevention and treatment programs, detailed in a release New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
“The many companies that manufactured and distributed opioids throughout the country did so without taking into account life or the national crisis that they were helping to fuel,” the official stressed. “Today, we hold these companies accountable and inject tens of billions of dollars into communities across the country.”
James told reporters that the settlement covers civil cases, but declined to comment on whether criminal charges were still possible.
The proposed settlement is the largest in a multi-year legal effort to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for the opioid crisis, which has wreaked havoc on American society in the past 20 years. According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 500,000 people died between 1999 and 2019 due to an overdose of any opioid, including prescription or illegal.
“There is not enough money in the world, frankly, to address pain and suffering,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, adding that the amount raised will go “where help is needed.”
Legal war against the pharmaceutical industry
The proposed agreement is far from being the first payment from companies involved in the opioid crisis. In 2019, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $ 572 million after ruling that the company was partially responsible for the opioid epidemic in the state. Last month, the same drug company settled a similar case in New York for $ 230 million.
However, Johnson & Johnson is not the only company facing a reckoning for its role in the controversial drug industry. The billionaire Sackler family offered $ 4.28 billion of their personal fortune to help settle lawsuits related to Oxycontin, the highly addictive opioid manufactured by their company, Purdue Pharma, as part of a bankruptcy proposal.
In this regard, the Justice Department harshly criticized the proposal in court documents, arguing that the plan would violate the potential plaintiff’s constitutional right to due process, as it would grant the Sacklers and their allies immunity from future lawsuits.