Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said he supports the broad strokes of a proposed $48 billion settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors named in a sprawling federal multi-district lawsuit.
State attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas — two Democrats and two Republicans — on Monday announced the proposal, under which the drug companies would pay $22 billion in cash over 18 years and $26 billion in treatment drugs and distribution services over 10 years.
“Many details need to be worked out, but this framework is an important step in addressing the crisis,” said Miller in a Tuesday news release.
“Any settlement must provide significant funds and treatment drugs to help people recover, as well as include requirements on the companies to prevent more addiction and death.”
The nearly 3,000 states, counties, cities and Native American tribes taking part in the multi-district lawsuit could use the $22 billion in abating local effects from the nationwide opioid epidemic, with possible funding for addiction treatment and community paramedic services and drug courts.
The state of Iowa and cities and counties would also receive a share, according to the statement from Miller’s office.
A formula for how the money would be distributed among those government entities has yet to be determined in the case, which is being handled in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
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The settlement names two opioid manufacturers, Johnson and Johnson and Teva, and three distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — all of which have agreed to the proposal in principle.
The manufacturers are accused of misleading patients and doctors about addiction and overdose risks in their marketing, while the distributors are said to have failed to recognize and stop suspicious opioid orders.
AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson issued a joint statement disputing the allegations but describing the $48 billion settlement as “an important stepping stone to achieving a global resolution and delivering meaningful relief.”
The distributors’ proposed payment contributions under the $48 billion deal are based on their approximate market share.
Under the settlement, the three companies also must change their policies to keep opioids from over-distribution in the future. The distributors will have to internally collect prescription data, set up an independent clearinghouse to review where opioids are being sent, and at what rate, conduct due diligence on pharmacies, and train delivery drivers to identify and report possible pill mills.
Johnson and Johnson and Teva, the manufacturers, also would agree not to market any opioid products.
More attorneys general and attorneys representing local governments in other states are expected to agree to the settlement in the coming days, according to a Monday news release about the agreement.
The attorneys general announced the proposed $48 billion settlement hours after Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties struck a separate $260 million agreement with the three opioid distributors and Teva.
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That agreement, reached around 1 a.m. Monday, averted what was scheduled to be the first federal opioid trial that same morning.
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma originally was named in the multi-district case but last month reached a settlement with some states and local governments valued around $10 billion, under which the company also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Miller, who did not join that deal on behalf of Iowa, said in his Tuesday release, “We will continue to work to hold Purdue and the Sackler family accountable.”
“Meanwhile, the settlement with the other companies offers the opportunity to begin getting resources to Iowans who have suffered due to the opioid crisis,” he said.
In 2018, there were 137 opioid-related deaths in Iowa, down 33 percent from 206 deaths in 2017, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Health Statistics.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates show there were around 69,100 opioid deaths nationwide in 2018, compared to 72,300 deaths in 2017.
Approximately 400,000 overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, per federal data.
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