NEW YORK NOW – Three major drug distributors that were alleged to have contributed to New York’s opioid overdose crisis will pay the state $1.1 billion to settle litigation brought against those companies over the epidemic, the state Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.
McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation collectively agreed to the settlement to remove themselves from the lawsuit, according to the office.
“Over the course of these past two decades, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen distributed these opioids without regard to the national crisis they were helping to fuel,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“But today, we’re holding them accountable and delivering more than $1 billion more into New York communities ravaged by opioids for treatment, recovery, and prevention efforts — bringing the statewide total our office has negotiated in the last month alone to more than $1.6 billion.”
The settlement is still subject to court approval.
James’ office had previously negotiated additional settlements with Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, the latter of which also agreed to dissolve its business. Other companies are currently facing trial as part of the litigation on Long Island.
In a joint statement, McKesson, Cardinal, and AmerisourceBergen said he settlement isn’t an admission of liability, and that it would allow the companies move past the litigation.
“While the companies strongly dispute the allegations at issue in the trial, they believe this resolution will allow the companies to focus their attention and resources on the safe and secure delivery of medications and therapies while delivering meaningful relief to affected communities, and will also support efforts to achieve a broad resolution under the previously disclosed framework,” the statement said.
The amount collected through those settlements tops the total funding included in this year’s state budget for the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the agency that leads the state’s addiction response.
The funds will be used specifically for opioid addiction treatment, prevention, education, and recovery services funded by the state. That’s on top of other commitments lawmakers included toward the crisis in this year’s state budget.
The state Legislature approved a bill this year that requires any funds collected from opioid-related settlements to be earmarked specifically for combating the epidemic. That was to prevent the state from diverting those funds for unrelated purposes.
As of now, the state hasn’t laid out how it plans to use the infusion of cash, but it’s likely to be divided between services provided directly by the state, local governments, and various nonprofit service providers, which often rely on the state for funding.
Nearly 5,200 people died in New York from an opioid overdose last year, according to state data. That was an increase compared to the year before of nearly 1,000 deaths statewide, or 22%.