US & World

New York Reaches A $1.1 Billion Opioid Deal With The Nation's Big Drug Wholesalers

McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health have agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement with the state of New York over their alleged role in opioid distribution.
McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health have agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement with the state of New York over their alleged role in opioid distribution.
Jeff Chiu/AP

New York's attorney general has reached a $1.1 billion settlement with three of the nation's largest drug distributors linked to their alleged role in the prescription opioid epidemic.

"...Over the course of these past two decades, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen distributed these opioids without regard to the national crisis they were helping to fuel," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement sent to NPR.

The companies, which rank among the largest corporations in the U.S., will spread their payments out over the next 17 years. They will also admit no wrongdoing.

This development came as the companies faced the prospect of a lengthy civil trial in New York. A separate trial against the drug distributors is underway in West Virginia, with closing arguments expected next week.

As part of the New York settlement, the companies have agreed to take part in a new tracking system designed to better control the amount of opioids sold and shipped to pharmacies nationwide.

This comes as sources tell NPR that a national opioid settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson could be finalized as early as today. Johnson & Johnson is also part of the national talks.

The total value of the national package, designed to resolve a tsunami of opioid-related litigation, could top $26 billion.

Last month, the New York attorney general's office settled separately with Johnson & Johnson for payments expected to total roughly $230 million.

According to state officials in New York, the "vast majority of funds" from these settlements will go to help communities struggling with high rates of addiction and overdoses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans have died during the opioid epidemic, which began with the aggressive sale and marketing of prescription painkillers in the late 1990s.

Preliminary data from the CDC found overdose deaths hit a deadly new record last year with roughly 93,000 fatalities.

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