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Kentucky To Get $460 Million In Settlement With Opioid Companies

Kate Howard

Kentucky will get more than $460 million as part of a multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The settlement is the result of several lawsuits Kentucky has filed against pharmaceutical companies. Proceeds will be put toward addiction treatment and prevention and will be distributed to the state over the coming years.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the windfall on Wednesday, saying the companies created and fueled the opioid epidemic.

“There is hardly a family anywhere that has been immune to the scourge of opioids,” Cameron said during a news conference. “We’ve lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians and seen families and children torn apart by the grips of addiction.”

The settlement is the result of a multistate lawsuit filed against drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

The states collectively received $26 billion, the majority of which has to be used to fight the epidemic through treatment and prevention.

As part of the deal, drug distributors have agreed to stricter standards, and Johnson & Johnson will stop manufacturing opioids.

Cameron said the state still has more work to do to combat the drug epidemic.

“This agreement doesn’t conclude the process but is a major step in our efforts to return these settlement dollars to the commonwealth,” Cameron said.

Overdose deaths hit record levels across the region and nation last year. More than 93,000 died from overdoses in 2020, a trend largely attributed to an increase in the use of fentanyl.

The settlement will likely become the largest reached with pharmaceutical companies that played a role in the crisis.

In a joint statement, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson disputed the allegations of the lawsuits but said the settlement would provide “meaningful relief” to communities hurt by the drug epidemic.

“The companies remain deeply concerned about the impact the opioid epidemic is having on individuals, families, and communities across the nation and are committed to being part of the solution,” the companies stated.

States have 30 days to decide whether to join the settlement.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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