“Every community in Pennsylvania has been touched by the opioid crisis – it has ravaged our towns, our families, and our state,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in response to a recent $26 billion national opioid settlement. The settlement includes all 67 counties and 241 local governments in Pennsylvania. It involves pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, along with the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, over their roles in contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis. While the companies have not admitted wrongdoing, their representatives have noted that they believe implementation of the settlement will bring meaningful relief to communities like those in Pennsylvania that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.
In a joint press release, the distributors bound by the settlement laid out the approximate financial contribution they would each be responsible for over the next 18 years. $6.1 billion will be paid from AmerisourceBergen, $6.0 billion from Cardinal Health, and $7.4 billion from McKesson. The settlement will provide many communities across the United States with up to $19.5 billion from the distributors over the next 18 years. This funding is much needed in Pennsylvania: in 2019 alone, 4,457 people in the state lost their lives due to accidental drug overdoses, with 146 of those deaths in Lehigh County.
The opioid epidemic affects people of all age ranges, across race and ethnicities and has a negative impact not just on the individuals who struggle with addiction but also the broader community. It affects families and children, contributes to the spread of other diseases, negatively impacts Pennsylvania’s workforce, and the state’s criminal justice system where those who struggle with addiction should receive therapeutic counseling and treatment services and are instead being incarcerated on drug charges.
Through this settlement, Pennsylvania will receive $1.07 billion in funds beginning as early as this month to improve programs and medical staffing, which will help save the lives of those struggling with opioid addiction in communities across the state. Attorney General Shapiro stated: “While no dollar amount will bring back what we have lost, this settlement was negotiated to allocate funding to states and local communities who have been most impacted by this crisis.”
This is a milestone for the Attorney General as he continues his legal fight, beyond this settlement, with the three distributors and Johnson & Johnson. He has said that he intends to pursue other companies and executives in the pharmaceutical industry, who he believes profited off of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.