Washington has reached a $518 million settlement with drug distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health, ending a months-long trial over the companies’ alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic in the state, the three companies announced on Tuesday.
McKesson will pay $197 million, while AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal will each pay $160.5 million.
Washington opted out of a $26 billion nationwide opioid settlement involving the three drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). It would have received up to $417.9 million from McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen under that settlement, which was finalized in February.
The settlement is one of the largest in Washington State history, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a press release.
“We could have joined the overwhelming majority of states and settled with the largest opioid distributors, but we chose to fight them in court instead,” Ferguson said. “That decision to take them to court will result in significant additional resources for Washington to combat the opioid epidemic.” The state had accused the drug distributors of failing to prevent prescription pills from being diverted for illegal use during a trial which began in November before King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott in Seattle. Washington had sought $38.2 billion to fund treatment.
The distributors, who deny wrongdoing, said the settlement would provide meaningful relief to communities impacted by the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Opioid overdoses have caused more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Washington was among a handful of states to opt out of the $26 billion national opioid settlement, along with Alabama and Oklahoma. New Hampshire settled with the three drug distributors but not J&J, while West Virginia was not part of the national agreement because of a prior settlement between the state and the three drug distributors.
Alabama recently reached a separate $276 million settlement with McKesson, J&J, and Endo International Plc on April 18, avoiding a trial that was set to proceed against McKesson that day.
West Virginia settled the state’s opioid claims against J&J for $99 million on April 20. West Virginia counties are still pursuing lawsuits against McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.
Florida and West Virginia are currently in the midst of opioid trials against other defendants. Florida is pursuing claims against Walgreens Boots Alliance, while West Virginia is pursuing claims against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and AbbVie’s Allergan.
By Dietrich Knauth