Missouri, Kansas to see hundreds of millions for drug treatment in opioids settlement

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Missouri and Kansas are expecting to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in a nationwide settlement with opioid companies and distributors.

Missouri could receive as much as half a billion dollars, Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Thursday.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office has not released an estimated figure, but has announced they too are in line for a slice of the $26 billion settlement.

The formula used to determine each state’s share of the proposed settlement will factor in the number of overdose deaths per capita, the number of residents with a substance abuse disorder and the number of opioids prescribed.

Both states’ legislatures have created funds to receive the money and put it toward addiction treatment.

The settlements were reached by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general with painkiller manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, as well as separately with three distributors: Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen.

Missouri and Kansas were not part of that group but participated in negotiations over the settlement.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson has been hit by numerous lawsuits from state and local governments in recent years over its role in the opioid crisis. Missouri filed suit in 2017. The three distributors had been subject to investigations by both states.

Johnson & Johnson will pay a total or $5 billion; the three distributors will pay up to $21 billion.

In exchange, the companies will be released from liability and won’t admit fault in claims that they recklessly marketed and distributed painkillers despite a rising addiction crisis. The agreements would also require Johnson & Johnson to stop selling opioids nationwide and stop opioids-related lobbying. The three distributors would be required to have greater oversight in tracking suspicious orders.

More than 1,920 people died from overdoses in Missouri last year; the number was over 470 in Kansas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Settlement

“The size and nature of this agreement will result in the largest victim-centric settlement in the history of the state of Missouri,” Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, said at a St. Louis press conference on Thursday, “Meaning every dollar will go to fighting addiction and funding treatment for real people.”

“My objective remains simple: Get as much money as possible into the hands of state and local governments, and service providers, in Kansas to pay for addiction treatment as soon as possible,” Schmidt, who is running for Kansas governor, said in a news release.

Schmitt, standing alongside families of those affected by addiction in St. Louis, said the crisis was “unleashed on the people of Missouri by callous pharmaceutical companies” that acted with “greed and indifference.”

The amount of money the companies will ultimately pay out depends on how many state and local governments sign the settlement agreement. States have 30 days to sign on. Some states, including West Virginia and Washington, have said they will opt out and continue litigation against the companies.

Missouri intends to agree to the settlement, but the full $500 million coming to the state is dependent on local governments agreeing. If no local governments agree, Schmitt’s office said, the amount could be halved.

Local governments get 150 days to sign on, and Schmitt said he’s launched a campaign to urge them to do so.

Both states have ongoing lawsuits with other pharmaceutical companies over their roles in the drug epidemic, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Those claims are now being litigated in bankruptcy court.

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