Idaho officials Friday announced a $119 million settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three major distributors over their roles in the opioid addiction crisis.
Republican administration Brad Little and Republican Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said it is the second-largest consumer settlement in state history, after the 1998 national tobacco settlement of $712 million.
A judge in Ada County on Wednesday approved the settlement that Little and Wasden agreed to in August. State participation made it eligible for a minimum of $64 million. It also paved the way for local government agencies to participate, and all those eligible did so in late December, raising the amount to $119 million.
The money will pay for damage caused by opioids, which the federal government declared a public health emergency in 2017. Johnson & Johnson and the three distributors reached a $26 billion national settlement in February.
“Idaho has made significant strides in fighting the opioid crisis in recent years, and the culmination of our legal action against opioid manufacturers — led by Attorney General Wasden and his team — now provides additional resources,” Little said in a statement. “Overall, our investments and operations will turn the tide of the opioid crisis.”
Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP
Wasden is taking legal action against other opioid makers and against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma.
“This arrangement holds some of those most responsible for the opioid crisis accountable and provides significant funding for treatment, recovery and prevention in Idaho,” Wasden said. “These funds will be a huge asset to our state as it recovers from the opioid crisis.”
By joining the national scheme, government agencies agree to waive their own lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
For Idaho, the Johnson & Johnson payment of approximately $21 million would be spread over nine years. The payment of about $98 million from the drug distributors would be spread over 18 years.
Under the agreement, 40% of the money would go to participating counties and cities, and another 20% to regional public health districts.
The remaining 40% would go to the state-run opioid fund, created by lawmakers last year and signed by Little. The Idaho legislature would withdraw money from the fund based on recommendations from the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, which is part of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The settlement agreements include, in addition to payments, increased responsibility and oversight for the drug companies, changes to the way prescriptions are distributed and sold, independent monitoring, a national database to track the supply of opioids to pharmacies where abuse is common, and a ban on Johnson & Johnson to sell or promote opioids.
Alabama, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Washington and West Virginia did not join the agreement and have sought their own deals or taken legal action.
Washington would have received $418 million if it had joined the settlement. Earlier this month, state officials agreed a $518 million settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. The agreement still requires the approval of a judge and of dozens of cities in Washington that have heard their own cases. Washington’s lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson is expected to go to trial in September.
West Virginia reached a settlement in April with Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $99 million. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he believed the West Virginia settlement was the largest in the country per capita with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
Also last month, Alabama reached a $276 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson and Endo International.
Idaho’s share of the $206 billion national tobacco settlement in 1998 was $712 million over the first 25 years of the deal.