In what would lead to the settlement of scores of lawsuits, the companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids in the United States over the past two decades would pay $26 billion, which would largely go to programs to fight drug addiction and treat drug abuse.
According to the Associated Press, manufacturer Johnson & Johnson would be barred from making any opioid medication for a decade. Pharmaceutical distribution companies Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson are also part of the settlement.
The settlement would resolve cases brought by local, state and federal government agencies, but it would not clear the docket of other cases aimed at other parts of the corporate opioid manufacturing and distribution pipeline.
“This is a nationwide crisis and it could have been and should have been addressed perhaps by other branches of government,” Paul Geller, one of the lead lawyers representing local governments across the U.S., said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “But this really is an example of the use of litigation for fixing a national problem.”
The vast majority of the settlement money, $23 billion, would go to programs to help addicts and stop the usage of opioids–prescription or otherwise.
The settlement is not the first in the legal battles against companies that profited from the opioid epidemic, and companies whose neglectful trade practices sparked the epidemic. According to AP, companies have paid out $40 billion in settlements in cases related to opioids since 2007, not including a pending $8 billion settlement with the now-bankrupt Perdue Pharma.
It is also not the largest settlement in US court history. That happened in 1998 when tobacco companies entered into a $206 billion settlement with the US government about lying regarding the dangers of their products.