Iowa Joining $26 Billion Opioid Lawsuit Settlement
Iowa could claim up to $170 million from a lawsuit settlement with four companies accused of contributing to the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis.
The state’s share comes as part of a $26 billion dollar agreement announced Wednesday. A coalition of state attorneys general reached the deal with the drug-maker Johnson & Johnson and pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.
The companies had been accused of ignoring signs of escalating addiction and overdose deaths tied to opioids, but as part of the settlement they will not admit liability toward the crisis.
“They’re paying huge amounts of money,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “There’s a certain implication there.”
Miller said the money will be paid over a period of 17 years. The final amount will depend on how many counties sign on to the settlement. Around two-thirds are involved in the lawsuit so far, he said.
The funds will be spent primarily on treatment and education.
“It’s not going to be enough money to solve the whole problem,” Miller said. “We’re not going to have money to throw around, but we think there’s going to be enough money, if we spend it wisely, to make a real dent in this problem and to really help.”
Last year, 213 deaths in Iowa were opioid-related, a 36 percent increase.
Miller said the companies involved in the lawsuit bear responsibility for making opioids a routine pain treatment rather than a last resort. He said holding them accountable for the harm caused by opioid addiction will help reset the philosophy around how the drugs should be used.
“We're hoping to reinforce what's being done and we're open to new initiatives and really trying to get the best way to deal with prevention of these situations from happening and dealing with the human beings that have been caught up in it,” Miller said.
Iowa is also part of a settlement with the consulting firm McKinsey and is involved in a pending bankruptcy settlement with Purdue Pharma. All told, the state could receive up to $200 million through opioid litigation.