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Opioid Distributors Agree To Pay $400 Million Settlement to Local Governments in West Virginia

Plaintiffs attorneys Bob Fitzsimmons, left, and Paul Farrell discuss a $400 million settlement reached in a lawsuit with three major U.S. drug distributors, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Charleston, W.Va. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia cities and counties reached a $400 million tentative settlement with three major U.S. drug distributors, lawyers announced Monday.

In a lawsuit in state court, the cities and counties accused the distributors of fueling the opioid epidemic. The companies are AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

The funds will be distributed over 12 years.

“This is a monumental settlement for the state of West Virginia, and it’s been a battle that’s been waged by a lot of families, a lot of communities,” Wheeling attorney Bob Fitzsimmons told news outlets. “A lot of bad things have happened as a result of the opioid epidemic.”

Fitzsimmons and Huntington attorney Paul Farrell Jr. said the individual counties and municipalities still must approve the settlement.

Lauren Esposito, vice president of external and executive communications for AmerisourceBergen, said the settlement will avoid years of litigation and help get resources to areas affected by opioid misuse, as well as make sure health care facilities are able to access medications that patients and providers need, news outlets reported.

Cardinal Health said in an emailed statement, “We remain committed to being a part of the solution to the opioid epidemic and believe this settlement agreement will help provide necessary relief to West Virginia communities in need.”

McKesson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

Last month, a federal judge ruled against Cabell County and Huntington in similar claims. They are not included in the settlement announced Monday and plan to appeal the ruling that rejected most arguments made against the drug companies.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a Monday news release that the settlement will benefit the fight against the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

“I’m happy to see the judicial system work as it should by benefiting West Virginia communities that have been hit hard by opioid abuse,” Morrisey said. “This settlement, along with other settlements from other cases, will provide significant help to those affected the most by the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

“I’ve always said that at the end of the day, West Virginia will have the highest per capita settlement results in the nation fighting for our people.”

The lawsuit accused the three major U.S. drug distributors of causing a health crisis throughout West Virginia.

“As a result of this strategy, the cooperative effort and the dedication of counsel for the cities, counties and our office, West Virginia has received the largest per capita opioid settlement in the country, so far,” Morrisey said.

In the last two years, the state has settled claims against manufacturers and related parties for more than $296 million. There are two other outstanding cases pending in bankruptcy.

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