Virginia could see up to $530M under opioid settlement

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia is expected to receive up to $530 million over many years from a proposed $26 billion national settlement agreement to litigation over the opioid crisis, Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday.

Herring and other attorneys general outlined key details of the proposed agreement that states and municipalities reached with the three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

The deal calls for Johnson & Johnson to pay up to $5 billion, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health to each contribute $6.4 billion, and McKesson to pay $7.9 billion.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to stop selling opioids and the distributors have agreed to establish an independent clearinghouse that will track and monitor the number of opioids they send to health care providers and localities, Herring’s office said in a news release.

A majority of Virginia’s portion of the money would go toward the Commonwealth’s newly created opioid abatement authority, according to the news release.

“No dollar amount will ever be able to bring back the Virginians we have lost to this devastating epidemic, but we can at least dedicate our time and resources to preventing further loss through prevention, treatment, and recovery,” Herring said.

In a statement, the distribution companies said that while they “strongly dispute” the allegations made in the lawsuits they faced, they believe the proposed settlement agreement and settlement process it establishes “are important steps toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States.”

Johnson & Johnson’s statement said the settlement would help make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis.

If approved, the settlement would likely be the largest of many in ongoing opioid litigation playing out nationwide. The money would come in 18 annual payments, with the biggest amounts in the next several years.

States — except West Virginia, which has already settled with the companies — will have 30 days to approve the agreements. After that, local governments will have four months to sign on. Each company will decide whether enough jurisdictions agree to the deal to move ahead with it.

Opioids, including both prescription drugs and illegal ones like heroin and illicitly produced fentanyl, have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.