What the opioid settlement means for Wisconsin - Paycheck

What the opioid settlement means for Wisconsin

On July 21, a group of state attorneys general that included Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released information about a $26 billion opioid crisis settlement reached with the three largest US drug distributors and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The statement revealed expectations that McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen will pay a combined $21 billion as their part of the settlement, while J&J will pay $5 billion for their part in the tragic US opioid crisis.

            The settlement proposes that the distributors’ portion will be paid over 18 years, and J&J will pay its amount over nine years. About $3.7 billion should be paid within the first three years. J&J agreed to stop selling opioids and the distributors have agreed to set up an independent clearinghouse to track opioids sent to health care providers and localities. J&J will also be barred from funding any third-party promotion of opioids and may no longer lobby with regard to any opioid-related activity, according to the Associated Press. The settlement is considered landmark for such cases.

Wisconsin AG Kaul revealed in a press release that, as part of this settlement, Wisconsin will receive approximately $400 million of the $25 billion settlement. Earlier in July, Kaul announced that Wisconsin would receive $65 million from the opioid settlement with Purdue Pharma.

“My top priority for potential opioid-related settlements is to recover as much as possible to support Wisconsin’s fight against the opioid crisis,” Kaul stated in a press release regarding the Purdue Pharma settlement.

To back up that statement, Kaul told Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) that he supports sending 70 percent of that settlement to local Wisconsin government programs related to opioid treatment, recovery and prevention. The rest of the money would go to state government.

“I think getting money to local and county governments, to the extent that we can, is exactly where that money should be going, so that we can get resources in the communities and help to make a difference as soon as possible,” he said to WPR. 

In June, Governor Tony Evers signed a bill backed by Wisconsin GOP lawmakers that will do just that. Although that bill does not apply to the Purdue Pharma settlement, it will apply to this new $26 billion settlement.

            “The tragic consequences of the opioid crisis have impacted families throughout Wisconsin and Wisconsin DOJ is committed to pursuing accountability from the corporations whose conduct worsened the opioid crisis and to recovering as much as possible from those companies to support efforts to fight the crisis,” Kaul stated. “In 2019, we joined the multistate investigation into opioid distributors. And, with today’s announcement, we’re now close to securing major financial recoveries that will substantially improve our ability to address the opioid epidemic.”

            According to a report by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 1,100 Wisconsinites died last year due to opioid abuse.

Georgia Beaverson

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