© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tablets of the opioid-based Hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
(Reuters) -Oklahoma has reached a $250 million settlement with AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:) Corp, Cardinal Health Inc (NYSE:) and McKesson Corp (NYSE:) to resolve allegations the drug distributors contributed to the opioid epidemic in the state, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said on Monday.
O’Connor said Oklahoma recovered more money from the distributors than the state would have received if it had joined a nationwide $26 billion settlement that was announced last year.
The national settlement also includes Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:). Oklahoma sued J&J separately, but in November the case was thrown out on appeal, negating a $465 million trial judgment and undermining Oklahoma’s legal theories in its opioid litigation.
AmerisourceBergen said drug distributors have been forced to “walk a legal and ethical tightrope” without clearer regulatory guidance on how to protect consumers from legal but potentially dangerous drugs.
“A settlement will avoid years of protracted litigation, expedite the movement of resources to communities impacted by opioid misuse and allow our company to do what we do best – ensuring that health care facilities like hospitals and community pharmacies have access to the medications that patients and care providers need,” AmerisourceBergen spokeswoman Lauren Esposito said.
McKesson and Cardinal Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Oklahoma was the last state pursuing litigation related to opioids against the three distributors. Alabama is still suing Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen after settling with McKesson. Local governments in West Virginia are pursuing cases after the state settled.
Oklahoma will use at least 85% of the funds to help abate the opioid addiction crisis in the state, according to O’Connor.
The distributors have denied wrongdoing in the epidemic, which has caused more than 500,000 U.S. overdose deaths during the past two decades, according to government data.