Three of the largest pharmaceutical distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are close to reaching a $26 billion deal with state and local governments, including Louisiana and East Baton Rouge Parish, that would settle thousands of lawsuits over their role in the opioid epidemic, The Associated Press reports.
While Louisiana and East Baton Rouge Parish are a part of the settlement, there are still details to be worked out, says Burton LeBlanc, an attorney with Dallas-based Baron & Budd hired to represent Baton Rouge in its lawsuit.
The settlement still requires states and local governments to approve the proposal, he says, a process that may take up to four months.
In a joint statement, the attorneys general for Louisiana and other states including New York, Florida and Tennessee said the settlement talks with the four companies are “potentially nearing their completion.”
The deal would mean Johnson & Johnson could not produce opioids for at least a decade. The three other companies, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, would share prescribing information through a new system that intends to halt the high number of pills that arrived in some regions decades ago.
In March 2020, LeBlanc said the total settlement amount Baton Rouge and Louisiana will receive depended on various factors, including the outcomes of the states’ trials against distributors, dispensers and manufacturers—some of which, like OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, have filed for bankruptcy.
Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths nationwide since 2000, reaching a record high in 2020.
While the deal would mean billions for lawyers who worked the cases, it is also expected to provide more than $23 billion in aid for treatment of people addicted to opiods, as well as to other programs addressing the crisis.
“I’m hopeful the settlement will go forward,” LeBlanc says, “because it will provide much-needed dollars to fight the opioid public health crisis.”