In July 2021, Washington state’s Attorney General (AG), Bob Ferguson, rejected a national opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three of the largest drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. On May 3, AG Ferguson announced that the settlement he secured has resulted in over $40 million more than what the national settlement would have awarded the state.
In a statement released on the Washington AG’s site, AG Ferguson announced that after more than two years of litigation, he has secured a $518 million settlement from the opioid manufacturers, who he claims “made billions of dollars feeding the opioid epidemic, shipping huge amounts of oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone and other prescription opioids into the state even when they knew or should have known those drugs were likely to end up in the hands of drug dealers and those suffering from substance use disorder.”
According to the AG office’s calculations, the national settlement would have resulted in Washington receiving $500 million, with $70 million going to court costs, leaving the state with $430 million to fund their opioid relief plan. With the individual settlement, the $518 million will lose only $42 million in legal fees, leaving $476 million for state recovery plans.
AG Ferguson also stated that this $476 million will be supplemented by an additional $183 million that was gained from challenging Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ bankruptcy proceedings.
Although this plan is being hailed as a victory by the AG, the resolution cannot be finalized until “all litigating Washington jurisdictions and at least 90% of non-litigating jurisdictions with populations over 10,000 agree to its terms, and the King County Superior Court judge approves.” Once it is approved, Washington would receive $518 million over a 17-year period. This is the same pay period as the national settlement reached with other states earlier in 2022.
In addition to discussing the settlement and its meaning, AG Ferguson discussed some of the plans that Washington will be implementing with the $476 million opioid payout. Washington’s Opioid Response Plan includes measures to:
- Create school-based and youth-focused programs, public education campaigns, additional training and enhancements to the prescription drug monitoring program in order to prevent opioid misuse, overprescription and overdose.
- Focus on the needs of pregnant women suffering from opioid addiction including infants with neonatal addiction issues.
- Improve and expand treatment for opioid addiction.
- Increase availability and distribution channels for naloxone and other drugs that treat overdoses.
- Provide support for Washingtonians in treatment and recovery, including housing, transportation, education, job placement, job training or childcare.
- Support first responders.
The remaining money from the settlement will go towards the litigatory costs including direct trial expenses of over $10 million, and approximately $11 million in litigating local government expenses.