Drug Distributors and J.&J. Attain $26 Billion Deal to Finish Opioids Lawsuits

A separate deal between the companies and Native American tribes is still being negotiated.

Wednesday’s agreement leaves thousands of other lawsuits against many other pharmaceutical defendants still unresolved, including manufacturers, drugstore chains and smaller distributors. Most of those companies are working on negotiating their own deals, which could potentially bring even more money to states, cities, counties and tribes. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and its owners, members of the billionaire Sackler family, are negotiating a $4.5 billion settlement with plaintiffs as part of a bankruptcy restructuring.

Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina, whose state could get up to $750 million from the agreement with the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, said that the total so far that could be gained from the opioid litigation, when combining Wednesday’s deal with other potential settlements underway, was almost $33 billion.

Under Wednesday’s agreement, the country’s three distributors would make payments totaling $21 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion over nine years. A key feature of the agreement is that the distributors would establish an independent clearinghouse to track and report one another’s shipments, a new and unusual mechanism intended to make data transparent and send up red flags immediately when outsize orders are made.

In return, the states and cities would drop thousands of lawsuits against the companies and pledge not to bring any future action.

But daunting obstacles remain before any checks are actually cut.

The agreement will now go out to the states and all their municipalities for formal approval. The states and the District of Columbia will have 30 days to review the offers and structure, including how much money they each would ultimately receive.

The attorneys general did not offer a firm list of states on board on Wednesday, saying that many states have not yet had the chance to scrutinize the deal.

A huge majority of states must sign on for the deal to proceed, although the companies have not specified an exact number. If that threshold is not met, the companies could walk away and litigation would resume.

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