A bipartisan group of attorneys general have announced a $26 billion settlement agreement with three major drug distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, potentially releasing the companies from current and future litigation if a critical mass of communities across the country agree to drop their cases against the companies for their roles in the ongoing opioid epidemic, reports the Washington Post. Attorneys general who unveiled the deal said that while they could not adequately compensate the families of those who have died, the money states will receive over the next 18 years may help reduce the future threat. To date, roughly 500,000 people have been killed by opioids over the past two decades.
The companies have denied wrongdoing. Under the settlement, Johnson & Johnson would be barred from manufacturing, marketing and selling opioids. The company voluntarily halted sales of pain pills last year. The deal would also require the distributors to establish and fund a “clearinghouse” that shows where every opioid dose is headed, an accountability mechanism that would alert regulators of suspicious orders. The settlement, which still needs broad support from states and communities, would settle more than 3,000 lawsuits brought by states, cities, counties and other jurisdictions that were consolidated into one of the largest and most complex civil litigation battles in U.S. legal history. A settlement has not yet been reached between the companies and Native American tribes.