THURSDAY, July 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) — A proposed $26 billion settlement on opioid-related lawsuits has been reached with four large drug companies, a group of state attorneys general announced Wednesday.

If enough states sign on to the deal with the country’s three major drug distributors — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson — and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, the companies could be released from all legal liability in the nation’s opioid crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, The New York Times reported.

If states and cities accept the settlement that took two years to reach, they would drop thousands of lawsuits against the companies and promise not to launch any future legal action against them, The Times said. The money from the companies would be used by communities for addiction treatment, prevention services, and other significant costs associated with the epidemic.

The states will now have 30 days to review the agreement, including how much each would be paid over 17 years. While many permit their attorneys general to sign off on such deals, others require that legislators must be consulted. An unspecified number of states must sign on for the deal to stick, The Times reported. If that threshold is not met, the drug companies could walk away.

Only these four companies would be bound by the settlement. Thousands of other lawsuits against other defendants, including drug manufacturers and drugstore chains, remain unresolved, The Times reported. The lawsuits alleged that for two decades, the three drug distributors did nothing while pharmacies nationwide ordered millions of pills for their communities. Johnson & Johnson was accused of making its own fentanyl patches for pain patients and then downplaying the addictive properties of opioid painkillers to doctors and patients.

The New York Times Article

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