Drug companies, J&J reach $26B deal with states, including Tennessee, to end opioid lawsuits

AM AARON OPIOID OVERDOSES VO.transfer_frame_0.jpeg
Posted at 2:16 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 23:31:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery was among a bipartisan group to announce a $26 billion settlement with three major pharmaceutical distributors and Johnson & Johnson that would end lawsuits stemming from the opioid crisis.

Slatery and the attorneys general from several states announced the deal Wednesday, saying the agreement is between state and local governments and major pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, along with Johnson & Johnson.


  • The three distributors collectively would pay up to $21 billion over 18 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson would pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • More than two-thirds of the money would be required to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.

According to a press release, the agreement would "resolve investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic” – including the nearly 4,000 lawsuits that have been filed in state and federal courts.

The agreement also requires “significant” changes to the industry.

However, officials said the deal's ratification is contingent on other states and local governments participating. The total funding distributed would be determined by how many participate. Officials said states and their local governments would receive the maximum payments if each state and its local governments joined.

States have 30 days to join the agreement, while local governments within those states have up to 150 days to join.

Slatery said Tennessee will sign the agreement and encouraged other states to do the same.

The agreement requires Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen to:

  • “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 the drugs being diverted.”
  • “Prohibit shipping 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.”

Johnson & Johnson is required to do the following:

  • “Stop selling opioids for 10 years.”
  • “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.”

According to a release, a previous version of this deal was announced in 2019 and also included the opioid manufacturer Teva. However, officials said negotiations with Teva are ongoing and are no longer part of the agreement.


Nashville saw a 32% increase in fatal drug overdoses in 2020 compared to the year prior, with 468 suspected drug overdose deaths in 2019 and 619 in 2020. So far this year, there have been 360 fatal overdoses, up 11% compared to the same time last year.

Last year, 80% of overdose-related toxicology reports detected fentanyl.

In 2020, the highest number of deaths occurred in the following ZIP codes:

  • 37207
  • 37115
  • 37211
  • 37013
  • 37209

The ZIP codes with the largest increase in deaths compared to 2019 are 37209, up 167%, 37210, up 156%, and 37217, up 83%.


Drug overdoses claimed more than 93,000 lives throughout the country in 2020.

The number of overdoses has increased in the U.S. by nearly 30 percent from the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s the largest increase since 1999.

The Prevention Alliance of Tennessee responded to the news of the settleme

"This is something that's going to hurt [the drug companies], it's not a small amount," said Brian Sullivan, Executive Board member. "But some people in recovery are left wondering if it's enough, because they've lost everything."

The Prevention Alliance of Tennessee says it hopes to use some of the money it stands to get to continue education efforts and speaking to Tennesseans directly.

"We go into communities and schools and educate them on the use on the use of nalaxone and on how to spot whether someone might be turning to a substance to cope with an issue their facing," Sullivan said.