Utah to receive portion of $26B agreement with opioid distributors, manufacturer

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FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion settlement covering thousands of lawsuits over the toll of opioids across the U.S., two people with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press. The settlement involving AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is expected this week. A $1 billion-plus deal involving the three distributors and the state of New York was planned for Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah is set to receive a portion of a historic $26 billion agreement over opioids.

The agreement includes Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – and Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids.

In addition to the $26 billion, of which Utah will receive more than $309 million over 18 years, the agreement requires “significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again.”

Additionally, Utah Governor Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes say the agreement would resolve investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic.

“The impacts of the opioid epidemic have been and continue to be devastating to thousands of Utahns and their families, so I appreciate the Department of Commerce and the Attorney General’s Office negotiating this agreement on behalf of Utah,” Gov. Cox says. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to determine the best use of these funds to benefit Utahns affected by the opioid crisis.”

AG Reyes released the following statement: “This is a reckoning long overdue. It has taken us years of hard-fought investigation, and I’m proud of the bipartisan cooperation that has gone into the prosecution and negotiation to arrive at this landmark settlement. But that is nothing compared to the years of suffering from so many in our state. Families across our state have shared with me their heart-wrenching stories about loved ones struggling with the horrible disease of addiction or who have overdosed and died. On their behalf, it has been my genuine honor to fight back and hold these and other companies accountable for helping to create and fuel this crisis.”

Nearly 4,000 claims have been filed by states and local governments across the country in federal and state courts.

States now have 30 days to sign onto the deal and local governments in the participating states will have up to 150 days to join.

According to a Thursday release, the 10-year agreement will result in court orders that require the three pharmaceutical companies to:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

Additionally, the agreement will result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

In February, AG Reyes announced Utah’s involvement in a $573 million national settlement with one of the world’s largest consulting firms, McKinsey and Company. He outlined how much Utah was receiving as part of the first multi-state opioid settlement, saying in part: “Payments from this and other lawsuits are not intended to compensate for the loss of Utah lives. no amount can do that.

A report released in early 2021 shows there was no increase in suicide or drug overdoses in Utah during 2020.

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