BY KEITH RIDLER ASSOCIATED PRESS
Idaho officials on Friday announced a $119 million settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three major distributors over their role in the opioid addiction crisis.
Republican Gov. Brad Little and Republican Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said it’s the second-largest consumer settlement in state history, trailing only the 1998 national tobacco settlement of $712 million.
An Ada County judge on Wednesday approved the settlement that Little and Wasden had agreed to in August. The state’s participation made it eligible for a minimum of $64 million. It also opened the way for local government entities to take part, and all those eligible did so by the end of December, boosting the amount to $119 million.
The money will address damage wrought by opioids, which the federal government declared a public health emergency in 2017. Johnson & Johnson and the three distributors finalized a national $26 billion settlement in February.
“Idaho has made significant strides in recent years in combatting the opioid crisis, and the culmination of our legal action against opioid manufacturers – led by Attorney General Wasden and his team – now offers additional resources,” Little said in a statement. “Altogether, our investments and activities will turn the tide on the opioid crisis."
Wasden is continuing legal action against other opioid makers as well as the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma.
“This settlement holds some of those most responsible for the opioid crisis accountable and provides significant funding for treatment, recovery and prevention in Idaho,” Wasden said. “These funds will be a huge asset to our state as it continues its recovery from the opioid crisis."
By signing onto the national settlement, government entities agree to forego lawsuits of their own against Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
For Idaho, the Johnson & Johnson payment of about $21 million would be spread over nine years. The roughly $98 million payment from the drug distributors would be spread over 18 years.
According to the agreement, 40% of the money would go to participating counties and cities, with another 20% going to regional public health districts.
The remaining 40% would go to the state-directed opioid settlement fund, created by lawmakers last year and signed into law by Little. The Idaho Legislature would appropriate money from the fund based on recommendations by the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, which is part of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.