Three major pharmaceutical companies, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health, are considering an $18 billion settlement to end the myriad lawsuits over their role in perpetuating the opioid crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports.
As it stands now, the settlement would prompt the three companies to pay out $18 billion over 18 years, and it’s possible a final version would include contributions from other companies, including Johnson & Johnson. It’s unclear exactly how the money would be distributed and to where. It’s also possible the settlement would include the donation of drugs used to fight opioid addiction.
News of the possible settlement comes ahead of the scheduled October 21st start date for a critical trial in Cleveland, in which two Ohio counties have sued not only McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, but also Walgreens, the drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical, and others. The case is expected to be a bellwether for future trials across the country, though, as NPR notes, the judge overseeing the trial has pushed for an unprecedented “global settlement” that would encompass all litigation related to the opioid crisis.
In order for the settlement to go through, it will need to garner the approval of various lawyers and government entities. State attorneys general from Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and North Carolina have been leading the talks with the pharmaceutical companies that have led to the current proposal.
Cities and counties across the United States have filed thousands of lawsuits over the opioid crisis, targeting every facet of the pharmaceutical industry, from drug makers to pharmacies to individual doctors. In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $572 million for its role in the nationwide epidemic, while last month, Purdue Pharma — the company behind OxyContin — agreed to tentatively settle over 2,000 lawsuits for somewhere between $10 and $12 billion. Purdue has since filed for bankruptcy as part of the settlement, while its owners, members of the Sackler family, are expected to pay up to $3 billion out-of-pocket. However, that settlement remains in limbo as several state attorneys general believe the amount is too small given the scale and devastation of the opioid crisis.