After tobacco, opiates. Accused of having fueled the health crisis ravaging the United States, the Johnson & Johnson laboratory and three large American drug distributors have agreed to pay $ 26 billion to settle thousands of disputes, the prosecutor announced on Wednesday. New York State.
The Johnson & Johnson laboratory has agreed to pay 5 billion over nine years, and distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, 21 billion over 18 years, with the hope of settling nearly 4,000 lawsuits brought by dozens of states. Americans and local communities, as part of a “historic” amicable settlement proposal, said the prosecutor.
500,000 dead in 20 years
The implementation of the agreement – which should allow states and communities to finance the treatments made necessary by this scourge – will depend on the number of American states that accept it: Wednesday, in addition to New York State, six other states have indicated that they have accepted it: North Carolina, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
If it is confirmed, the agreement will be the most important of the epic legal battle engaged by the States and communities to make pay the companies accused of having produced and promoted opiate drugs, or turned a blind eye to their overconsumption.
The opioid crisis, triggered by the incisive promotion and over-prescription of highly addictive painkillers such as oxycodone in the 1990s, has killed more than 500,000 overdose in the United States over the past 20 years. It has generated a large market for illicit and very potent opiate substances, such as fentanyl, which have skyrocketed the number of overdoses.
Other laboratories in the crosshairs
After starting to improve just before the pandemic, the number of fatal overdoses started to rise again in 2020: more than 93,000 people died, most of them from opioid-related overdoses.
Johnson & Johnson had announced an amicable agreement with the state of New York alone at the end of June, providing for it to pay this state 230 million dollars, after having stopped producing and selling opiate substances.
Other laboratories have been sued, which are not associated with the agreement announced Wednesday, including Teva, Allergan, or Purdue, whose drug OxyContin is seen as one of the first responsible for this crisis. The large American drugstore chains are not affected either. The agreement should therefore not put an end to the disputes concerning them.