HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Attorney General William Tong announced Wednesday a $26 billion agreement with pharmaceutical distributors to bring necessary resources to fight the opioid crisis.
The agreement with Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson will grant Connecticut approximately $300 million. The settlement will be paid out over 18 years, with funds directed to opioid reduction, including expanding access to opioid use disorder prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen ignored glaring red flags that should have blocked the flood of highly addictive painkillers into communities Connecticut and the United States.
Johnson & Johnson callously misled patients and doctors about the deadly addictive nature of their opioid drugs. Together, these corporations reaped profits from the pain and suffering of Connecticut families. This settlement—among the largest in U.S. history—brings billions of dollars back into our communities to begin to heal the devastation of the opioid epidemic.
These negotiations have unfolded over many months, and Connecticut fought hard at every turn to secure the maximum amount of justice and accountability. No money will ever match the trauma and tragedy of losing a parent or child to opioid addiction, but it is my sincere hope that with these funds and strong new safeguards we can begin to turn the tide on this epidemic.Attorney General William Tong
Families touched by this epidemic say these resources save lives.
“Her perseverance and good sound care made her where she is today, so I’m really glad that the money is going to go for people who are sick and still suffering because that treatment saved my daughter’s life,” said Paige Niver, whose daughter battled opioid addiction.
Resources are already in place across the state to assist those on the road to recovery.
“Know that there are people out there that have been through what you have been through or something like it, and they would love nothing more than to help you,” said Thomas Russo, Communications Manager of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).
Russo said this funding will only help CCAR continue this work.
“We want to see this money allocated to communities in need, families in need, individuals affected and organizations who work for person-first outcomes,” Russo said.
The agreement would resolve the claims of both states and local governments across the United States, including nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. Following Wednesday’s agreement, states have 30 days to sign onto the deal and local governments in participating states will have up to 150 days to join to secure a critical mass of participating states and local governments.
States and their local governments will receive maximum payments if each state and its local governments come together in support of the agreement.
“This historic settlement provides some measure of help and justice to victims of purposeful and pernicious lawbreaking,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said in a statement in part Wednesday. “Today’s news sends a very clear message to drug companies that they must act responsibly and in the best interest of the public, and not their financial bottom line.”
The settlement comes as a result of investigations by state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether or not Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.
Collectively, the three distributors will pay up to $21 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years. The total funding distributed will be determined by overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments.
Municipalities will receive 15% of the state’s allocation. State funds will be distributed through a state Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council, administered by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
On Thursday, Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and Bristol-Burlington Health District Director Marco Palmeri issued a statement regarding the landmark settlement and the impact it could have on the city.
“The City of Bristol, like many other communities throughout the country, is plagued by the opioid crisis,” Palmeri said in the statement. “Despite the tremendous progress the Mayor’s Opioid Taskforce has made to bring awareness to this disease, encourage recovery and to eliminate barriers to recovery services, the frequency of overdoses has not decreased. So it is especially encouraging to hear that CT will be receiving substantial funds from the opioid distributor’s settlement. These funds are needed to get to the root causes of this disease, teach prevention strategies and provide supportive services to get folks back to being productive members of our communities.”
In addition to the cash payment, the agreement also requires significant industry changes to help prevent this kind of crisis from ever happening again.
“This is a historic settlement, and I’m proud Connecticut and our Attorney General William Tong has played such a significant role in holding these companies accountable for their actions,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “These dollars will be an incredible support in our state and local efforts to halt opioid addiction before it starts, and get help to those who need it most. My administration has been committed since day one to breaking down barriers between government, businesses, and non-profit sectors to make progress, and that couldn’t be more critical than it is in this crisis. The only way we can stop addiction is together.”