Johnson & Johnson and several other defendants in the federal opioid lawsuits reached a $48 billion settlement Monday with attorneys for the more than 2,600 cities, counties, tribes and other municipalities suing the companies for their roles in the opioid epidemic.
Jason Ochs, an attorney representing several Wyoming cities and counties in the sprawling federal litigation, confirmed the deal in an email to the Star-Tribune on Monday afternoon, though he said exact details are still being worked out.
The news comes hours after a $250 million settlement was announced Monday morning. That deal — between the three biggest drug distributors in America and two Ohio counties — averted the beginning of the first opioid trial, which was set to begin Monday.
Last week, attorneys for the municipalities and several state attorneys general were working to reach a complete settlement for those three companies, plus Johnson & Johnson and Teva, an Israeli-based drugmaker.
The deal collapsed Friday over a divide between the attorneys general and the private attorneys representing the various municipalities. It would’ve seen the three distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — plus Johnson & Johnson and Teva pay $48 billion. Twenty-two billion dollars of that settlement would’ve been paid in cash, while the remaining $26 billion would’ve been in the form of donated drugs and services to treat addiction.
But the attorneys appear to have resurrected the deal Monday. Ochs said that while there were still details to be hammered out, his understanding was that the settlement was for $48 billion, with the total still being split between cash and services.
“All good news as the settlement communicates the defendants’ acknowledgement that they played a huge role in creating the greatest public health crisis of our time,” Ochs said in an email.
The news is the latest development in the federal litigation, which has been consolidated in a federal court in Ohio. Over the past few years, more than 2,600 states, counties, cities and tribes have filed lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors, alleging that the drugs were improperly marketed and their dangerous addictive qualities were underrepresented. The distributors and pharmacies who are named in the lawsuit were accused of turning a blind eye to massive shipments of the drugs.
The companies had all previously denied wrongdoing.
Several Wyoming entities — including the cities of Casper, Cheyenne, Riverton, Rock Springs and Green River, along with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes — joined that litigation over the past 18 months.
Attorneys and observers have long predicted a wave of hefty settlements. The judge in Ohio has been pushing the various attorneys and companies to reach one giant settlement for two years. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and the most derided of the 20-some defendants, reached a settlement last month worth as much as $12 billion. That deal, meanwhile, remains contentious, as many states and hundreds of local governments oppose it.
Even with the settlements, there are still several defendants in the cases, including Walmart and Walgreens. Both companies were named for their roles in distributing the painkillers from their pharmacies.
It’s unclear how much money the Wyoming entities will receive, either from the Purdue deal or this latest settlement. Ochs previously said the system that will determine which entities get what is still being created.
While several Wyoming municipalities filed federal lawsuits against a wide range of defendants, the state itself sued only Purdue in state court. As part of Purdue’s settlement, the company has filed bankruptcy. It’s unclear where exactly that leaves the state’s case. Richard Mincer, the Wyoming attorney for Purdue, said it was on hold and that he wasn’t involved in settlement discussions. Messages left with the state attorney general’s office haven’t been returned. A spokeswoman for Purdue declined to comment late last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.