Ohio Scores $808M Opioid Settlement Outside Global Deal (1)

Sept. 16, 2021, 7:39 PMUpdated: Sept. 16, 2021, 8:20 PM

Ohio has struck an $808 million settlement with Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson over their alleged part in the opioid abuse crisis, jumping ahead of the other states working to finalize a $26 billion global deal for state and local government lawsuits.

“Ohio is first in line in the country. Money could begin to flow for our settlement starting in November,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) said during a news conference Thursday. “It doesn’t matter what happens to the other states.”

Until recently, Ohio was working alongside other state attorneys general on a universal settlement to resolve most of the thousands of complaints brought by local governments against the companies. The local governments faced the brunt of financial hardship because of increased health-care, jail, and employment costs in the opioid crisis. But the pressure of a pretrial hearing Thursday in an imminent Ohio trial gave the Buckeye State leverage to jump the line.

No state will have a right to get more money in a settlement with these companies due to a “most-favored- nation status” provision in the deal, Yost’s office said. Also, the companies have agreed to pay the state’s attorneys fees—something that wasn’t included in the universal deal other attorneys general are negotiating.

The settlement framework would provide 30% of the funds to local governments, 15% to the state, and 55% to a foundation that provides opioid-related grants for programming throughout the state. The cash will be paid out over 18 years, but can be front-loaded, Yost said.

Of all Ohio local governments that sued the opioid distributors, only one hasn’t signed on to take part in the state’s deal. That’s Scioto County, the home of Portsmouth, a city nationally known as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic described in the book “Dreamland.” Local officials there said the share of the state’s settlement deal wasn’t enough to refund its costs of dealing with the opioid epidemic.

Roughly 39,000 Ohioans died from an opioid overdose between 2000 and 2020, Yost said. So it was best to ensure Ohio got this money, instead of continuing to navigate the uncertainty of the global settlement process.

“We don’t know if there’s going to be a national deal,” Yost said. “Other states could get only one-third or a half of what they’re entitled to because their local governments aren’t going along. That’s not going to happen in Ohio.”

(Updated throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com; Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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