Governments, opioid companies reach $26B agreement
State and local governments across the U.S. have reached an agreement with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen that will provide up to $26 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, the parties involved announced.
The agreement settles claims of nearly 4,000 state and local governments that filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. The governments had alleged that Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured opioids, provided a cascading amount of misleading information that spurred and supported the opioid epidemic. The governments had also claimed that McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen, which distributed the opioids, were also active participants in the opioid epidemic, according to a press release.
The opioid epidemic has claimed nearly 500,000 lives since 1999, according to the CDC.
“No amount of money, no number of sanctions, will be able to right these wrongs,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press release issued by the state. “But this settlement puts in place controls that will go a long way to make sure that this never happens again.”
According to the press release, the 10-year agreement stipulates that Johnson & Johnson must:
- stop selling opioids;
- not fund or provide grants to third parties that promote opioids;
- not lobby on ventures that are connected to opioids; and
- give clinical trial data as appropriate under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.
In addition, the 10-year agreement with opioid distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen mandates these companies:
- create a “centralized independent clearinghouse” that supplies the three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics regarding where drugs are going and how frequently;
- utilize data-driven systems to recognize “suspicious opioid orders” from customer pharmacies, end these pharmacies’ ability to accept shipments from companies responsible for such orders, ban sales staff from swaying decisions to such orders, and alert state regulators when “certain signs of diversion” become apparent; and
- mandate that senior corporate officials participate “in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.”
Johnson & Johnson said in its own press release that “the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible.” The company also pointed out that its agreement with the settlement “is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing.”
In a statement jointly issued by McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen Drug, the companies said they “strongly dispute the allegations at issue in the trial.”
States involved in the lawsuit have about 30 days to sign onto the agreement and the local governments have approximately 150 days to do so, Shapiro said, adding he anticipated “broad support” for the agreement.
Cardinal Health. Distributors announce proposed opioid settlement agreement. https://newsroom.cardinalhealth.com/2021-07-21-Distributors-Announce-Proposed-Opioid-Settlement-Agreement. Accessed July 21, 2021.
CDC. Opioid data analysis and resources. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/data/analysis-resources.html. Accessed July 21, 2021.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General & Reporter. Attorney General Slatery leads $26 Billion agreement with opioid distributors/manufacturer. https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2021/7/21/pr21-25.html. Accessed July 21, 2021.
Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson statement on nationwide opioid settlement agreement. https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-statement-on-nationwide-opioid-settlement-agreement. Accessed July 21, 2021.
Letitia James, NY Attorney General. Attorney General James announces proposed $26 billion global agreement with opioid distributors/manufacturer. https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-announces-proposed-26-billion-global-agreement-opioid. Accessed July 21, 2021.
Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Attorney General Shapiro announces $26 billion agreements with opioid distributors/manufacturer. https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/taking-action/press-releases/attorney-general-shapiro-announces-26-billion-agreements-with-opioid-distributors-manufacturer/. Accessed July 21, 2021.