Big Pharma Settles, Oregon Buys In

Oregon is one of the states that has signed on to a $26 billion legal settlement with four pharmaceutical companies over their alleged role in the opioid epidemic — Johnson & Johnson and drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.  

According to the Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s twitter, Oregon is to receive up to $332 million in the settlement over an 18-year period to be used for drug treatment and drug abuse prevention. The actual sum received will depend on how many cities and counties in Oregon waive their legal claims against the four companies. 

“These funds will make a huge difference in how we address substance use disorders going forward and will help put a stop to this decades-long epidemic that continues to cause death and heartache to countless Oregonians and their families,” Rosenblum wrote on Twitter. 

While Oregon will accept the deal, in the opinion of Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who rejected the deal, a state could get more money via a court ruling. 

This settlement will end all legal claims against the four companies over allegations that their role in the distribution of opioids, including the questions of their downplaying the addictive nature of the drugs having exacerbated the national crisis. Johnson & Johnson has denied their role, but per the legal agreement will no longer distribute opioids. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record number of 93,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year. Rosenblum said that, in Oregon, 462 people died in 2020 from unintentional opioid overdose, compared with 280 the year before.  

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, in the next two years the state must reach an agreement with local governments on apportionment of the settlement money. The state has one year to reach an agreement concerning the Johnson & Johnson $5 billion part of the payout. 

This $26 billion settlement is the largest one since the 1998 settlement of $246 billion with tobacco companies. 

By: Joanna Rosińska