AG Racine Announces Opioid Distributors and Johnson & Johnson Will Pay Over $47 Million to the District

OAG Helped Negotiate Settlement to Support Opioid Prevention, Treatment & Recovery  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that the District will receive over $47 million from a signed settlement with the opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three leading opioid distributors which will be used for needed support for District residents struggling with opioid addiction. 

As a result of the efforts of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the District is expected to receive almost $9 million from Johnson & Johnson, which will be paid over a span of ten years, and over $38 million from McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal – the country’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – which will be paid over a span of 18 years. This settlement resolves all multi-year investigations into and lawsuits stemming from the role these opioid manufacturers and distributors played in creating and exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the District and across the country. The settlement agreement requires the payments of all four corporations to go toward opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery.  

The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities across the country, including the District which had the fourth highest opioid overdose rate in 2019. Opioid deaths increased to 411 in 2020, and the preliminary data for 2021 is not showing any improvement. Tragically, Black DC residents are disproportionately impacted as they accounted for 84% of overdose fatalities in the last six years. Our city can and must do more to creatively and effectively save lives. This is a public health crisis and a social justice issue,” said AG Racine. With today’s landmark announcement, more residents who are struggling with opioid abuse and addiction will get needed support, and more preventive programs will be put in place for those who are at-risk. We must also aggressively increase medical interventions, including use of prescription drugs that help reduce addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and explore safe sites that would test toxic fentanyl before users inject or otherwise put it into their bodies. And my office will continue to hold accountable those responsible for the opioid crisis and we’ll keep seeking to secure resources to help impacted residents.”

The ongoing opioid epidemic has exploded across the U.S. and the District in recent years. In 2020 alone, drug overdoses took the lives of over 81,000 Americans. In the District, opioid deaths hit record numbers in 2020, and disproportionately impacted Black residents.

For their roles in producing and inciting the opioid epidemic, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal will be required to:  

  • Pay up to $21 billion total across the country: Over the span of 18 years, the three companies will collectively be required to pay up to $21 billion.  
  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.  
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.  
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.  
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.  
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.  
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts. 

For its role in producing and inciting the opioid epidemic, Johnson & Johnson will be required to:  

  • Pay up to $5 billion total across the country: Over the span of 10 years the company will be required to pay up to $5 billion. Up to $3.7 billion of which will be paid by the company during the first three years.   
  • Stop selling opioids.  
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.  
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.  
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.  

The agreement marks the culmination of three years of negotiations to resolve more than 4,000 claims of state and local governments across the country. It is the second largest multistate agreement in U.S. history, second only to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Fifty-two states and territories signed on to the agreement as well as thousands of local governments across the country.

A copy of the Distributor Settlement Agreement is available here.

A copy of the Janssen Settlement Agreement is available here.

OAG’s Efforts to Address the Opioid Crisis 
This settlement is the latest development in the OAG’s efforts to address the national opioid crisis and protect District residents from harm. In 2016, AG Racine testified on the Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdose Prevention Amendment Act. In 2018, the DC Council passed a permanent version of the Synthetics Abatement and Full Enforcement Drug Control Act (Safe DC) proposed by AG Racine to make it easier to prosecute the suppliers and distributors of dangerous drugs, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl.  

In June 2019, AG Racine sued Purdue Pharma and former top executive Richard Sackler for misleading patients, doctors, and communities about the danger of opioids in pursuit of massive profits from sales. In July 2020, AG Racine led a 10-state coalition supporting states’ rights to enact policies geared towards opioid overdose prevention. In February 2021, AG Racine announced a settlement with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, over its role in turbocharging the opioid crisis by helping opioid manufacturers promote and profit off dangerously addictive painkillers. In April 2021, AG Racine was a part of a $300 million multi-state settlement agreement with the pharmaceutical manufacturer Indivior, over Medicaid fraud allegations and the false marketing of Suboxone, which is approved for use by those recovering from opioid use disorder to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms.