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July 21, 2021
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state attorneys general across the country today revealed the details of a proposed multibillion-dollar national opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. The attorneys general have been engaged in ongoing efforts to hold these companies responsible for their roles in contributing to the opioid epidemic gripping this country.
The historic agreement would resolve the claims of both state and local governments across the country, including the nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. The agreement also requires significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again.
Depending on the allocation metrics and participation of local units of government, Michigan stands to receive up to nearly $800 million from these defendants over the life of the settlement. Only the 1998 national tobacco settlement has involved more dollars than this proposed settlement.
Since taking office, AG Nessel has focused diligently on combatting the opioid epidemic and holding accountable those responsible for creating and fueling the crisis. Most recently, in February, Nessel joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to secure a $573 million settlement with one of the world's largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Co. Michigan is on the receiving end of $19.5 million in that settlement. Michigan has already received approximately $16 million of this money.
Additionally, Michigan became the first state in the country to sue major opioid distributors as drug dealers under Nessel's leadership in December 2019. That case remains in active litigation. However, the historic settlement announced today would resolve the claims against three of the four defendants in the case. The litigation against Walgreens will continue.
"When I ran for Attorney General, I made a commitment to do everything possible to assist our state residents whose lives have been torn apart by the opioid epidemic. I am thrilled to be delivering on that promise," Nessel said. "This historic settlement will help save lives and further combat the ongoing crisis, while also ensuring those who created this catastrophe pay for our collective recovery. For far too long, local communities have carried the burden of fighting against the opioid epidemic and felt those in a position to advocate for them weren't listening. This settlement will bring much-needed financial support for ongoing intervention, services and treatment efforts statewide, and eventual healing for Michigan families."
Injunctive Relief Overview:
State negotiations were led by Attorneys General Josh Stein (NC), Herbert Slatery (TN) and the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
This settlement comes as a result of investigations by state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.
The agreement in principle was reached by all parties in October of 2019 and the parties have been working on the particulars of the settlement since then. Under the arrangement, the states will have 30 days to review the documents and then make a sign-on decision. After that, local units of government will have 150 days to do the same.
In addition to her legal actions against companies, AG Nessel serves on the Michigan Opioids Task Force. The group released its 2020 Annual Report in May, which noted opioid overdoses killed 1,768 Michiganders in 2019 - an average of almost five people every single day. If you or a loved one are in need of opioid addiction treatment, there are resources to help.