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Missouri signs on to opioid settlement agreement

Attorney General Eric Schmitt signed off on the term sheets for the settlement with several opioid distributors, taking the first step toward procuring potentially $500 million for the state.

The money is contingent upon every state and local government agreeing to suspend their lawsuits and sign onto the term sheets. Otherwise, the amount Missouri and other states would receive decreases. 

Schmitt’s office received settlement term sheets from Johnson & Johnson and other distributors including McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health that would bring in more than $500 million. The case is one of the largest victim-centric settlements in Missouri, Schmitt said. 

“This money will provide desperately needed funding for treatment and recovery programs, as well as needed funding for law enforcement, drug courts, and other resources,” Schmitt said. “In order to get the full amount of money to aid victims of opioid addiction and abuse, my office will proactively engage stakeholders and subdivisions to ensure full sign-on. My office will never stop working to fight the opioid crisis and provide needed financial aid to opioid abatement and treatment programs and services across the state.”

All of the money from the state’s portion of the settlement is set to go into an opioid abatement and treatment fund overseen by the Mental Health, Social Services, Health and Senior Services, and Public Safety departments.

In total, Johnson & Johnson will pay out $5 billion to all the states that agree to the terms, and the other distributors would be on the hook for $21 billion. 

Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop selling opioids entirely and will not fund any third parties’ promotion of opioids. The others have agreed to report and ban the shipping of suspicious opioid orders, establish data-driven systems to detect suspicious orders from pharmacies, and block customer pharmacies from receiving shipments if they show signs of diversion, according to the Attorney General’s Office. 

In a prevoius statement, Johnson & Johnson maintained the company’s actions related to the promotion and marketing of prescription opioids were “appropriate and responsible.” 

“We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. This settlement will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the United States,” Michael Ullmann, the executive vice president and general counsel of Johnson & Johnson, said. 

Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson also said they “strongly dispute” the lawsuits but supported the settlement as “important steps toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States.” 

More than 1,100 Missourians died from opioid-related causes in 2018, meaning one in every 56 deaths that year was opioid-related, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The previous year, one in every 65 deaths was related to opioids.