SALT LAKE CITY — A settlement has been reached between multiple states and a group of pharmaceutical companies over their role in the opioid addiction crisis, for a total of $26 billion.
Utah will receive $266 million, as it was one of the 52 states and territories involved in the agreement. Twenty-seven of Utah's counties also signed onto the agreement, according to an announcement made Friday by Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson will start paying out in April, and the money will be distributed over a period of 18 years. $133 million will be distributed to local communities for "treatment, recovery, harm reduction, expand[ing] needed services, and other strategies to address the opioid epidemic." The other half will go to the state.
Various voluntary professionals across the state have formed the Utah Opioid Task Force and the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, and they have developed and suggested a structured plan for the funds' distribution.
"We believe these suggested guardrails will maximize these funds and ensure funding will go to impactful interventions," the attorney general's office wrote.
This multi-billion-dollar agreement comes after three years of negotiations involving more than 4,000 claims by state and local governments. The AG's office says this is the second-largest multi-state agreement in U.S. history, second only to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
“We need to devote even more resources to the opioid epidemic as soon as possible, and this settlement will let us intensify the fight,” Reyes said in a press release. “Utah has made great strides, but the reality is still stark. Last year, 104,000 people died of opioid use disorder in the U.S.—that’s the largest number ever.”
According to Friday's announcement, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen will be required to do the following in addition to the monetary settlement:
- 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.
Johnson & Johnson will also be required to do the following:
- 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.
“To be clear, this settlement is not about trying to recover money for the loss of life," Reyes added. "All the money in the world could not properly recompense the suffering and loss Utahns have endured. Instead, this money will help us immediately assist those in the cycle of addiction and prevent many of our own friends and family from ever heading down this tragic path in the future."