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Ky. to get $483 million in multistate opioid settlement

Kate Howard

Kentucky will be awarded nearly $500 million in a multistate settlement involving four drug companies accused of contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis. 

The $26 billion settlement announced Friday is a final agreement between 46 states and companies Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson, which have either manufactured or distributed the drugs. 

It’s the second-largest multistate settlement in U.S. history, after the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of the 1990s. 

For its part, Kentucky will receive $483 million over 18 years, starting this spring. According to the terms of state House Bill 427 passed last year, the payments will be split between local and state governments, and used in part to help fund addiction treatment resources. 

The potential settlement was first announced in July. 

“Today marks the end of a long and hard-fought negotiation,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Friday during a news conference. 

“It’s a negotiation that we took with dual purpose: to ensure that these companies are held accountable, and to ensure that the commonwealth receives the funding it needs, that it deserves, to intensify our opioid abatement efforts.”

And Cameron said the funds can’t come soon enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between April 2020 and April 2021, around 100,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses — a more than 28% increase from the previous 12 months. 

Kentucky saw nearly 2,000 overdose deaths in 2021. 

“Nearly every county and community in the commonwealth has been affected,” Cameron said. “These are not just numbers. They are friends and neighbors and loved ones. They have faces, names and certainly stories to tell.”

Distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson are responsible for roughly $19.5 billion of the settlement. 

In a joint statement issued Friday, company representatives say that while they “continue to strongly dispute the allegations made against them, they believe that the implementation of this settlement is a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.” 

Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured the drugs, will contribute $5 billion toward the settlement. The company said in a separate statement that the funds would “directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis,” NPR reported. 

Indiana also stands to get more than $500 million in the settlement if all eligible municipalities have opted in by July, state Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement issued Friday. 

“We have worked exhaustively with other states and Indiana cities, counties, and towns to secure this settlement,” Rokita said. “These funds will go toward helping Hoosier communities fight the drug crisis, helping bolster local law enforcement, drug task forces, regional treatment hubs and other important programs. 

“This is a huge win for Indiana.”

So far, 577 or 89% of Indiana cities, counties and towns have joined the agreement. Indianapolis is among the remaining which are instead involved in their own separate lawsuits. 

Aprile is WFPL's health reporter. Rickert comes to WFPL from the News and Tribune in Southern Indiana, where she covered crime and courts as a senior reporter. A New Albany native, she spent nearly two decades in Louisville before recently moving back across the river to Jeffersonville.
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