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Four attorneys general propose framework for a global $48 billion opioid settlement

Four attorneys general announced a proposed framework for a global settlement that could resolve lawsuits against five companies involved in the opioid crisis.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, along with the attorneys general of Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas, announced a $48 billion proposed settlement Monday with two manufacturers — Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries — and with three distributors — Cardinal Health, McKesson and Amerisource Bergen.

The proposed deal includes $22 billion in cash and another $26 billion in “medication assisted treatment drugs and their distribution” over a ten-year period. It also includes an agreement for the companies to change their policies to prevent future over-distribution of opioids.

The attorneys general are hoping other states will join the settlement, and it remains unclear if this proposal will move forward if they don’t, according to a spokesperson for Stein.

The proposal is not part of the $260 million settlement reached Monday with two Ohio counties in the multi-district litigation also known as the MDL.

The MDL is comprised of 2,700 municipalities as plaintiffs. Most states have their own pending litigation involving the opioid crisis and are not listed in the MDL as plaintiffs, but a proposed global settlement deal such as this aims to resolve both sets of litigation.

Three of the defendants — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — issued a joint statement saying the MDL settlement does not mean they are at fault.

“While the companies strongly dispute the allegations made by the two counties, they believe settling the bellwether trial is an important stepping stone to achieving a global resolution and delivering meaningful relief,” the joint statement said.

Paul Hanly, who represents municipalities for negotiation purposes in the MDL, told CNN that while he favors a global settlement, his plaintiffs are concerned that they will never see the money at a local level if the attorneys general proposed settlement is finalized.

Hanly also told CNN that this $48 billion figure is simply not enough.

“The opioid epidemic has ripped through our communities and left a trail of death and destruction in its wake. This agreement is an important step in our progress to help restore people’s lives,” Stein said in a press release.

The distribution of the $22 billion in cash will be based on a formula that has yet to be finalized.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro cautioned that without a deal like this, communities across the country will not receive the proper funding.

“We will have a system in this country where we will randomly and haphazardly litigate these cases,” Shapiro said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “And the needs of people across the country will not be met.”

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