File-Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost speaks

In this Feb. 20, 2020, file photo, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost speaks in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – Ohio will share in a $26 billion settlement with the three largest distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson for what Attorney General Dave Yost said is the companies’ role in the opioid epidemic.

The state could receive $1 billion from the settlement, according to Yost. Opioid distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and AmerisourceBergen, along with manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, also agreed to change operations and help prevent similar crisis from happening.

“This isn’t an antidote for this devastating crisis that killed so many, but the financial resources will provide for significant recovery in Ohio,” Yost said in a statement. “The funds are necessary for the healing process that our communities desperately need, and the guardrails these companies are now required to implement will help make sure that these companies will provide a brake in the system, so that those individuals who need medication can receive it without flooding our communities.”

The settlement comes after investigations by attorneys general into whether the three distributors would refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

Opioid overdose deaths rose nationwide last year to a record 93,000, nearly a 30% increase over the previous year, according to Yost. During the second quarter of 2020, 11 of every 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose, the state’s highest mortality rate at any point during the epidemic.

States have 30 days to sign on to the agreement, and local governments in states that participate will have 150 days to join. A substantial part of the money is expected to be used on opioid treatment and prevention. 

Ohio was one of the first states to file lawsuits against opioid distributors and the second to sue manufacturers. Gov. Mike DeWine, then the state’s attorney general, sued Johnson & Johnson in 2017 and sued Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and AmerisourceBergen in 2018.

“The settlement announced today has the potential to help Ohioans turn the corner in our battle against opioids,” DeWine said in a statement Wednesday. “Thanks to the work from our nation’s attorneys general, the opioid makers and distributors that tore Ohio’s families apart are being held accountable and will support communities in their recovery.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.