Johnson and Johnson and drug distributors will pay a combined $26 billion in an opioid addiction lawsuit settlement. Missouri could receive up to $500 million of that money.

Missouri will receive up to $500 million in a $26 billion settlement between several states and opioid manufacturers and distributors, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Thursday.

“Opioid addiction has stolen thousands of our children, our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and loved ones," Schmitt said in a news release. "It has ravaged our state, and ruined lives, shattered dreams, and cut thousands of lives short."

In Boone County, 24 people died of opioid overdoses in 2018, according to the Missouri Health Department. Of those deaths, 38% had a history of drug abuse. None of the 24 had a known history of treatment for drug abuse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid deaths in Missouri have nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

Counties and cities have to sign on to the settlement for the state to receive the full amount. Schmitt announced an initiative for having these divisions sign on to the settlement and receive resources for victims of addiction, preventative care, and more.

According to the C.D.C., 24 counties in Missouri had 50 or more opioid prescriptions per 100 people in 2019. Butler County had the highest rate at 136.3 opioid prescriptions per 100 people.

The state's portion of the settlement will go into an opioid abatement and treatment fund that will be used by the Departments of Mental Health, Social Services, Health and Senior Services, and Public Safety. The settlement funds will be used to fund existing programs, including prevention programs, education programs, intervention efforts, treatment resources, recovery programs and treatment courts.

In the settlement, Johnson & Johnson will pay out $5 billion in total to all states that agree to the terms, and the distributors — Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen — will pay out $21 billion in total to all states that agree to the terms.  

In addition, Johnson & Johnson is required to:

  • Stop selling opioids altogether.
  • 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.

The distributors are required 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 pharmacies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of, and require reporting of, 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.

"We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected," said Michael Ullmann, executive vice president, general counsel, Johnson & Johnson, in a statement. "This settlement will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the United States.”