Pharmaceutical Distributors and J.&J. Reach $26 Billion Deal to End Opioids


More than $2 billion of the $26 billion deal will never go to states and territories. It would be used to pay the fees and costs of private attorneys representing thousands of counties and municipalities, as well as some states, in opioid cases. Although many states were represented by their own salaried attorneys, others, like most cities and counties, had to rely on outside counsel to initiate such a costly and all-consuming case.

While states decide whether to sign the agreement, lawsuits against the companies will continue, including a local West Virginia lawsuit in California state court against Johnson & Johnson and in federal court against distributors. At least half a dozen other trials are scheduled to begin in the fall and early winter.

“Reaching a settlement is just step one,” said the executive committee of plaintiffs, negotiating on behalf of local governments, despite Wednesday’s announcement being a landmark.

Joe Rice, chief negotiator on the committee, noted that some states will have to pass legislation that locks out how opioid settlement money is used and prevents future lawsuits.

But he stressed that from the beginning of the negotiation, the payments were intended to be used almost exclusively to address the opioid epidemic. Mr. Rice, who also helped negotiate the Big Tobacco deals more than 20 years ago, acknowledged that most of that money was ultimately diverted to balancing government budgets, rather than to treating smoking-related problems.

He said the new deal has much tougher railings to ensure funds go to prevention, treatment, drugs, education and other opioid-related issues.

Most states will prepare their own payment plans with local governments. Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and others have already mediated internal formularies. Last month, New York legislature It passed the bills to ensure that all funds from the opioid litigation settlement go into a “locked box” to be used only to address the crisis.


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