Dana Nessel

Photo By: WNEM. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and other state attorneys general in the United States revealed details to a proposed national opioid settlement with Johnson and Johnson and three other pharmaceutical distributors in the country.

The three other pharmaceutical distributors are McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. This agreement would resolve the claims of both local and state governments across the country, including about 4,000 that were filed lawsuits in state and federal courts. The agreement will hope to make significant industry changes that will help prevent a crisis like this from happening again.

Michigan was the first state in the country to sue major opioid distributors as drug dealers in December 2019. That specific case against Walgreens remains in active litigation while the settlement announced Wednesday will resolve the claims against three of the four defendants in the case.

“When I ran for attorney general, I made a commitment to do everything possible to assist our state residents whose lives have been torn apart by the opioid epidemic. I am thrilled to be delivering on that promise,” Nessel said. “This historic settlement will help save lives and further combat the ongoing crisis, while also ensuring those who created this catastrophe pay for our collective recovery. For far too long, local communities have carried the burden of fighting against the opioid epidemic and felt those in a position to advocate for them weren’t listening. This settlement will bring much-needed financial support for ongoing intervention, services and treatment efforts statewide, and eventual healing for Michigan families.”

Funding Overview:

  • The three distributors collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 18 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • The total funding distributed will be determined by the overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments.
  • The substantial majority of the money is to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.
  • Each state’s share of the funding has been determined by agreement among the states using a formula that takes into account the population of the state along with the impact of the crisis on the state – the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder, and the number of opioids prescribed.

Injunctive Relief Overview:

Requires Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, through court orders, to:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

Requires Johnson & Johnson, through court orders, to:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

The state negotiations were led by AG Josh Stein from North Carolina and Herbert Slatery from Tennessee. The AGs from Colorado, California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Massachusetts also helped the negations.

This settlement comes after investigations by state AGs on if the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted drug orders and whether Johnson and Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

The agreement was reached in principle by all parties in October 2019. States will have 30 days to review the documents and the make a decision.

Copyright 2021 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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