Four States Propose $48 Billion Settlement In Global Opioid Lawsuit

By Lindsey Weedston 10/28/19

The $48 billion offer is still a far cry from the estimated $504 billion in damages caused to the country in 2015 alone.

courtroom where opioid trial was to take place

The attorneys general of four U.S. states have proposed a $48 billion settlement between some of the world’s biggest drug companies and states, tribes and nearly 3,000 cities and counties across the nation at what could be the peak of the opioid epidemic. 

The offer comes shortly after what would have been the first federal opioid trial was averted by a $250 million settlement between Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and two counties in Ohio.

The global settlement deal was proposed by two Democratic and two Republican attorneys general of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee. According to NBC News, the foursome has not yet announced whether any other states are on board with their plan.

Is $48 Billion Enough?

However, a lawyer representing the cities and counties involved in the global suit, Paul Hanly, believes that this number is not high enough for his clients. It’s likely that negotiations will continue for another three to six months, he said.

"This is the most complex negotiation in the history of litigation," said Hanley.

Last week, Hanley’s clients rejected an offer of $18 billion over the course of 18 years after it was found that New York City would have only received as little as $5 million per year from the deal, a small fraction of the $500 million per year it has spent to combat the opioid crisis. The same issue applied to other cities.

The $48 billion offer is still a far cry from the estimated $504 billion in damages caused to the country in just the year 2015.

Funds Would Be Delivered Over 10-Year Period

The settlement would also be split between cash payments and services and supplies. The deal proposed for the global case would offer over $22 billion in cash as well as $26 billion in treatment drugs and delivery services, all of which would be delivered over the course of 10 years. 

In Ohio, drug distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen paid $215 million to Summit and Cuyahoga counties, while generic opioid maker Teva Pharmaceutical paid $20 million in cash and provided $25 million worth of Suboxone, a common opioid addiction treatment drug. The cash payments will also go toward treatment efforts.

"We are looking at using this money for treatment," said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley. "It's about rehabilitation and getting people straight."

Meanwhile, Walgreens Boots Alliance, another defendant in the Ohio case, has not yet announced its settlement with the plaintiffs. Purdue Pharma, whose name is often evoked when it comes to the opioid crisis, was also a target of these lawsuits but filed for bankruptcy in September.

All companies involved have denied the allegations that they’re responsible for the opioid epidemic, but the three who settled last week released a joint statement saying that the deal is “an important stepping stone to achieving a global resolution and delivering meaningful relief."

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: