Reuters have cited a source claiming Johnson & Johnson would pay US$5 billion (A$6.8 billion). Source: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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  • US states are expected to unveil a US$26 billion (A$35.5 billion) settlement with a major drugmaker and three major distributors over the opioid epidemic
  • Reuters cited a source claiming Johnson & Johnson will pay US$5 billion (A$6.8 billion) and the distributors a combined US$21 billion (A$28.7 billion)
  • Between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the country according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Overdose deaths have risen during the pandemic — up 29 per cent in 2020 from 2019 — with opioids involved in 69,710 overdose deaths in 2020

US states are expected to unveil a US$26 billion (A$35.5 billion) settlement with a major drugmaker and three major distributors over the opioid epidemic which has rocked the country for decades.

Reuters cited a source claiming Johnson & Johnson would pay US$5 billion (A$6.8 billion), while McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen would pay a combined US$21 billion (A$28.7 billion).

The nationwide settlement, according to Reuters, is expected to be supported by more than 40 of the 50 states, and the final sum of the settlement will depend on the number of states and political subdivisions which join the deal.

Johnson & Johnson is accused of downplaying the addictive nature of opioids, while the three distributors are alleged to have only implemented lax controls, which enabled painkillers to find their way into illicit channels.

The opioid crisis

Between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Data released last week by the CDC also showed an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the number of deaths rose 29 per cent on the year before to 93,331. A total of 69,710 of those were in some way connected to opioids.

Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Nora Volkow highlighted isolation and social distancing as some of the contributing factors to the spike but remained optimistic that reining in COVID-19 would mitigate the overdose crisis.

“Hopefully, more people are able to build up the social support systems that existed before the COVID pandemic, and the health system can focus again on providing treatment for opioid use disorder which was subverted by the need to take care of patients with COVID.”

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