A group of state attorneys general in the United States has unveiled a landmark $26bn settlement with major US drug companies accused of fuelling a deadly nationwide opioid epidemic, but some states were cool on the agreement.
Under the settlement proposal released on Wednesday, the three largest US drug distributors – McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen – are expected to pay a combined $21bn, while drugmaker Johnson & Johnson would pay $5bn.
“There’s not enough money in the world frankly to address the pain and suffering,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who added however that the money will “help where help is needed”.
The deal was the second-largest cash settlement ever, trailing only a $246bn tobacco agreement in 1998, and the largest unveiled in a multiyear legal effort to hold the industry accountable for the opioids crisis, which has caused more than 500,000 deaths in the US across the last 20 years.
“The numerous companies that manufactured and distributed opioids across the nation did so without regard to life or even the national crisis they were helping to fuel,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the attorneys general from 15 states involved in the deal.
“Today, we are holding these companies accountable and infusing tens of billions of dollars into communities across the nation,” James said in a statement.