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Tennessee Is One Of the Lead States In Proposed Settlement With Opioid Companies

Sharyn Morrow/Flickr

Tennessee's top lawyer and his counterparts in three other states announced Monday that they've negotiated a deal with the opioid industry worth nearly $50 billion, a pact that they hope will change the behavior of opioid makers and distributors.

The proposed legal settlement includes about $22 billion in cash and nearly $29 billion in opioid addiction treatment, including suboxone provided free of charge. And the deal would set new rules for drug companies, says Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, such as having to set up compliance departments that look for red flags, like suspiciously large purchases.



"All of this is wrapped up in an attempt to try to change the past practices and create a lot more information," Slatery said in a conference call with dozens of reporters nationwide.

The proposed settlement includes three big pharmaceutical distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisouce Bergen Corp — and two drug makers, Johnson & Johnson and Teva. The agreement was announced just hours after four of those same drug companies agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by two Ohio counties that was expected to be a test case for opioid litigation.

Slatery and the attorneys general of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas put together the proposal, which is meant to settle thousands of claims made against the drug companies, both by states and local communities.

It would require buy-in from those jurisdictions; some already say the offer is inadequate. But Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the alternative — communities going after the drug companies on their own — would lead to unequal results.

"We will randomly and haphazardly litigate these cases," he predicted. "Some payouts will go to some particular counties with no rhyme or reason other than their docket got scheduled before someone else."

The attorneys general also predicted the long march of litigation could bankrupt the drug companies before they've paid out compensation to communities suffering from widespread opioid abuse.

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons
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