Pharmaceutical companies have settled opioid lawsuits from several states, including Florida, and will pay out $26 billion nationwide. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the arrangement after serving as one of the lead voices in a multistate effort.
“Since day one, I have fought to hold those accountable who played a part in fueling the opioid epidemic and these settlement agreements are a large step forward in our fight to end this crisis,” Moody said. “I recognize that no amount of money will bring back those lost, but Florida and its subdivisions will receive more than a billion and a half dollars under these agreements to pay for prevention, treatment and recovery-related services. I will continue litigating with the remaining defendants to hold them accountable.”
Fourteen states brought lawsuits against pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson and against manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Moody made the lawsuits a priority shortly after her election In 2018.
Moody’s Office worked in conjunction with counterparts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
Other states that want to sign onto the settlement may do so in the next 30 days, and local governments can do the same for up to 150 days.
According to the terms of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion over nine years, with Florida receiving around $300 million.
The three distributors will shell out a combined $21 billion, of which $1.3 billion will come to the Sunshine State.
Gov. Ron DeSantis praised the settlement.
“While the damage can’t be undone, the more than $1.3 billion Florida will receive will help us continue to combat the devastating effects of the nationwide opioid crisis,” DeSantis. “This settlement helps hold these companies accountable for their role in contributing to the opioid epidemic and will provide Floridians struggling with opioid addiction the services they need to recover. I appreciate Attorney General Ashley Moody for championing efforts to address the destruction caused by opioids in Florida.”
Besides the substantial payouts, the drug distributors must establish a centralized clearinghouse, which all three companies will share, that provides aggregated data and analytics publicly on where and how much opioid product is moving in the U.S.
Data-driven systems must be employed that flag suspicious orders by pharmacies, which must be reported and have service terminated rather than having their suspicious orders met. Sales staff may play no role in determining what qualifies as a suspicious order, and senior corporate staff for each company must engage in regular oversight of any anti-diversion efforts.
As for Johnson & Johnson, the company may not sell opioids for the next 10 years or provide grants to third parties promoting the drugs. The company also faces a lobbying prohibition on any issues related to opioids.
Moody’s office says opioid overdose deaths in Florida jumped 37% in 2020, with an average of 21 killed per day. That puts Florida second in the nation in such deaths, behind only California.