OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma entered settlement agreements with three major pharmacy chains and an opioid manufacturer totaling more than $226 million, Attorney General John O'Connor announced Wednesday.
Including the new settlements with drugmaker Allergan and pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, Oklahoma has received more than $900 million from opioid makers and distributors to help address the state's opioid crisis, O'Connor said.
“The opioid crisis has inflicted unspeakable pain on Oklahoma families and caused the deaths of thousands of Oklahomans,” O'Connor said in a statement. “Between 2016 and 2020, more than 3,000 Oklahomans died from opioid overdoses."
Nearly all the settlement funds must be used to help remediate the affects of the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, including prevention and treatment services.
In November, three of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains reached settlements with states over the toll of opioids worth a total of about $13 billion. Under the separate deals, CVS Health and Walgreen Co. are each paying about $5 billion and Walmart is paying more than $3 billion. None has admitted wrongdoing.
Allergan didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the Oklahoma settlement.
The settlements are the latest in a wave of deals that state and local governments have struck with companies, including drugmakers, distribution companies and even a consulting firm, even as some lawsuits over how the drugs are marketed and sold continue. The total of proposed and finalized settlements is now more than $50 billion. Unlike with tobacco company settlements in the 1990s, the bulk of the money is required to be used to address the opioid crisis, which has been linked to well over 500,000 U.S. deaths since 2000.
In 2019, Oklahoma, under then-Attorney General Mike Hunter, was the first state to reach a settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for $270 million. Most of that money was used to establish a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa.
Oklahoma was also the first state to go to trial in a lawsuit against the makers of opioids blamed for contributing to the nation's opioid crisis. A district court judge in 2019 found that New Jersey-based drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and its Belgium-based subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals violated the state's public nuisance statute and ultimately ordered the company to pay the state $465 million to help address the state's opioid crisis. However that decision was later overturned by the state's Supreme Court, which determined the trial court judge wrongly interpreted the state's public nuisance law.
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Sean Murphy, The Associated Press