AG Yost inks a $26B deal with major drug companies that fueled opioid epidemic

Staff report

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a historic $26 billion nationwide agreement with the three largest distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson for their roles in the far-reaching and devastating opioid epidemic.

In addition to the monetary settlement, distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids, must also make significant changes to help prevent a similar crisis from ever happening again.

“This isn’t an antidote for this devastating crisis that killed so many, but the financial resources will provide for significant recovery in Ohio,” Yost said. “The funds are necessary for the healing process that our communities desperately need, and the guardrails these companies are now required to implement will help make sure that these companies will provide a brake in the system so that those individuals who need medication can receive it without flooding our communities.”

The settlement stems from investigations by Yost and other state attorney generals into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

The agreement resolves the investigations and litigation related to the companies’ roles in the epidemic. State negotiations were led by Attorneys General Yost, Josh Stein of North Carolina and Herbert Slatery of Tennessee as well as the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The Buckeye State has been a steadfast leader in the opioid fight, one of the first states to file suit against the distributors and the second state to sue the manufacturers in an effort to gain accountability and compensation for the harm they collectively caused.

Tragically, opioid overdose deaths nationwide rose last year to a record 93,000, nearly a 30 percent increase over the previous year. During the second quarter of 2020 in Ohio, 11 of every 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose, the state’s highest mortality rate at any point during the epidemic.

From 2010 to 2019, opioid overdoses claimed more than 23,700 Ohioans, with countless more having had their lives and/or communities torn apart by the epidemic fueled by these companies.

The agreement resolves the claims of both states and local governments throughout the country, including the nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in state and federal courts. Following today’s agreement, states have 30 days to sign on to the deal and local governments in the states that participants will have up to 150 days to join. Maximum payments will be made to states and their local governments if they collectively support the agreement, securing a critical mass of participating states and local governments.

Staff report