New York, six other states settle opioid suit for $26B

AG James
State Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James and her direct colleagues from Connecticut, Louisiana, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee, announced a $26 billion settlement Wednesday with four drug distributors that include billions in penalties for their role in the opioid crisis. 

Funding from the lucrative agreement will be used to provide addiction treatment, education, prevention, and recovery services to victims, as well as resources for first responders. The 10-year deal also includes provisions that centralize data sharing between distributors and allow tracking of prescription orders. 

New York State alone will see over $1 billion from pharmaceutical companies Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson, as well as around $230 million from Johnson & Johnson, which will also be withdrawing from the opioid market altogether. 

The companies had been charged with creating and fueling the opioid epidemic that has plagued the country for years. In 2018 alone, New York State saw 2,991 opioid overdose deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

James said it was a bittersweet agreement.

“Yes, we’ve reached a settlement after many months and years of negotiation, but it will not bring back the loss of life,” the attorney general said. “But what it will do is prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

One AG present estimated funds could be dispersed as early as the end of the year.

Local governments in the participating states will have up to 150 days to join. States and their local governments will receive maximum payments if each state and its local governments join together in support of the agreement.

James said she had no comment on further criminal prosecution of executives of opioid distributors when pressed by PoliticsNY. However, she did say this deal is “silent” on whether such criminal proceedings are possible. 

“I’m proud of this agreement,” James said. “[I] look forward to working to make sure that these resources go to those who are struggling with addiction.”