Washington reaches $518M settlement with opioid distributors

May 3, 2022, 2:13 AM | Updated: 3:03 pm
FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks March 23, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, W...

FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks March 23, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Months into a complex trial over their role in flooding Washington with highly addictive painkillers, the nation's three largest opioid distributors have agreed to pay the state $518 million. Ferguson announced the deal Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — Months into a complex trial over their role in flooding Washington with highly addictive painkillers, the nation’s three largest opioid distributors agreed Tuesday to pay the state $518 million, with the vast majority being directed toward easing the addiction epidemic.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the deal, noting that it’s worth tens of millions of dollars more than Washington would have received from the companies if it had signed onto a national settlement reached last summer involving the distributors and Johnson & Johnson.

The agreement still requires approval from a judge and from dozens of Washington cities that pursued their own cases against the distributors — McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

Under the settlement, the state would have to spend $476 million of the total to address the opioid crisis, including on substance abuse treatment; expanding access to overdose-reversal drugs; and providing housing, job placement and other services for those struggling with addiction. The rest of the money would go toward litigation costs.

“We could have joined the overwhelming majority of states and settled with the the largest opioid distributors, but we chose to fight them in court instead,” Ferguson said. “That decision to take them to court will result in significant additional resources for Washington to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The three companies announced earlier this year that 46 states had signed onto the national settlement, under which they will pay nearly $20 billion over 18 years.

Ferguson, a Democrat, declined to join, calling what would have been the state’s $418 million share from the distributors insufficient. Instead, he decided to go to trial against the three distributors and separately against Johnson & Johnson.

The case against the distributors went to trial last November in King County Superior Court in Seattle, alleging violations of consumer protection and public nuisance laws, while the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson is scheduled to go to trial in September.

The attorney general argued that the three companies shipped such a vast amount of drugs to Washington that it was obvious they were fueling addiction: Opioid sales in the state rose more than 500% between 1997 and 2011. In 2011, more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed in the state — enough for a 16-day supply for every resident. In 2015, eight of Washington’s 39 counties had more prescriptions than residents.

The companies rejected the accusations. They said they merely supplied opioids that had been prescribed by doctors, and it wasn’t their role to second-guess the prescriptions or interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.

Further, the companies argued, Washington state itself played a large role in the epidemic. In the 1990s, concerned that people in chronic pain were being undertreated, lawmakers passed the Intractable Pain Act, which made it easier to prescribe opioids.

In a written statement Tuesday, the distributors said the settlement “will further the companies’ goal of achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims while delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.”

Over the last two decades, the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans have been linked to overdoses of opioids, including both prescription pain kills and illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl.

Across the U.S., many lawsuits filed by governments over the toll of the drugs have been resolved in recent years — most with settlements, and some with judgments or verdicts in trials. So far, drug makers, distributors and pharmacies have agreed to settlements totaling well over $40 billion, according to an Associated Press tally.

The new Washington state settlement stands as the largest between a single state and a company or group of companies, topping a $484 million deal announced in March between CVS and Florida.

Trials are underway in courts in West Virginia, Florida and California. A decision has not yet been issued after another trial last year in West Virginia.

___

AP reporter Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A road is completely filled with a tall pile of debris from destroyed beachfront homes and b...
Associated Press

Ian deals blow to Florida’s teetering insurance sector

Daniel Kelly and his wife bought a 1977 doublewide mobile home in May for about $83,000 at Tropicana Sands, a community for people 55 and older in Fort Myers, Florida. But he ran into roadblocks when he tried to insure it. Managers at Tropicana Sands told him he likely wouldn’t be able to find a […]
23 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John Henry Ram...
Associated Press

Texas inmate who fought prayer, touch rules to be executed

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas death row inmate whose case clarified the role of spiritual advisers in death chambers nationwide is scheduled for execution Wednesday, despite efforts by a district attorney to stop his lethal injection. John Henry Ramirez, 38, was sentenced to death for killing 46-year-old Pablo Castro, a convenience store clerk, in 2004. […]
23 hours ago
A customer looks at refrigerated items at a Grocery Outlet store in Pleasanton, Calif.,. on Thursda...
Associated Press

‘Best Before’ labels scrutinized as food waste concerns grow

As awareness grows around the world about the problem of food waste, one culprit in particular is drawing scrutiny: “best before” labels. Manufacturers have used the labels for decades to estimate peak freshness. Unlike “use by” labels, which are found on perishable foods like meat and dairy, “best before” labels have nothing to do with […]
23 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden attends an event to support legislation that would encourage domestic ma...
Associated Press

Can Biden save democracy one US factory job at a time?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is working to create a manufacturing revival — even helping to put factory jobs in Republican territory under the belief it can restore faith in U.S. democracy. The latest development came Tuesday, when chipmaker Micron announced an investment of up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to […]
23 hours ago
FILE - People stand on the destroyed bridge to Pine Island as they view the damage in the aftermath...
Associated Press

Biden to focus on hurricane victims in Florida, not politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will visit hurricane-ravaged Florida with a pledge that federal, state and local governments will work as one to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives — putting politics on mute for now to focus on those in need. Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Ky., arrives to speak to reporters Sept. 7, 2022,...
Associated Press

GOP optimistic about Senate chances despite Walker turmoil

NEW YORK (AP) — Leading Republicans are entering the final month of the midterm campaign increasingly optimistic that a Senate majority is within reach even as a dramatic family fight in Georgia clouds one of the party’s biggest pickup opportunities. And as some Democrats crow on social media about apparent Republican setbacks, party strategists privately […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Washington reaches $518M settlement with opioid distributors