New York Reaches $1.1 billion Settlement with Opioid Distributors

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced in a press release yesterday a $1.1 billion settlement with three of the nation’s largest drug distributors for their alleged  roles in fueling the opioid epidemic in the state. 

The funds delivered by McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation will be used to help treat and prevent opioid use in New York, the release said. This settlement removes the three drug distributors from the opioid trial underway in Suffolk County State Supreme Court. 

“For more than two decades, the opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities throughout New York and across the rest of the nation, killing hundreds of thousands of our friends and family members and addicting millions more,” Attorney General James said in the press release. “And over the course of these past two decades, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen distributed these opioids without regard to the national crisis they were helping to fuel…While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, or the countless communities decimated by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing any future devastation.”

According to a Reuters article published on Tuesday, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019. Provisional data shows that 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths with 93,331 deaths, up 29 percent from the previous year. Opioids were involved in 69,710 of those deaths, or 74.7 percent. 

The New York lawsuit was filed in March 2019 against the manufacturers and distributors deemed responsible for the opioid epidemic. Manufacturers named in the complaint include Purdue Pharma, members of the Sackler Family who own Purdue, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its parent company Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., and Allergan Finance LLC. Distributors named in the complaint include McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation and Rochester Drug Cooperative Inc., the Attorney General’s Office said in the press release.

The cases against Mallinckrodt, Rochester Drug Cooperative, and Purdue and the Sacklers are now moving through the bankruptcy Court. A settlement with the Sackler family is currently pending court approval, and would require the defendants to pay $4.5 billion, ban them from selling opioids and require them to shut down Purdue.

Attorney General James reached an agreement with John & Johnson last month, requiring the company to pay $230 million and to end its sale of opioids nationwide. The New York opioid trial continues in state court against the three remaining manufacturers: Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Allergan Finance, the press release stated. 

According to the Reuters article, more than 40 U.S. state attorneys general are expected this week to unveil a $26 billion settlement resolving claims that distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the nationwide opioid epidemic. States will have 30 days to decide whether to join the global accord.