FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky stands to eventually reap more than $460 million to combat its opioid-addiction woes as its share from a possible $26 billion settlement with several pharmaceutical companies, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday.
Cameron laid out details of the potential impact of a settlement on Kentucky, which has been hit hard by the deadly scourge of opioid addiction. The looming deal would settle lawsuits accusing the pharmaceutical companies of fueling the dependency woes from a massive influx of painkillers.
“This settlement has been long and hard-fought, but we have remained committed to ensuring that the companies are held accountable and that the commonwealth receives its share,” Cameron said at a news conference.
The possible deal is with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three drug distribution companies — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. States have 30 days to sign onto the deal, Cameron said. He said his office is reviewing the proposed agreement.
Cameron said his office will do its “due diligence to make sure the terms are right” for Kentucky, but added he's optimistic that the settlement will go forward.
If approved, Kentucky would stand to receive more than $460 million over 18 years, he said. That would provide the state and local governments with “substantial funds to support Kentuckians struggling with addiction," Cameron said.
Kentucky's share would be distributed under terms of a new state law. Local governments would receive half the proceeds, with the other half going to the state, Cameron said. The state's portion would be managed by the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission.
Republican state Rep. Danny Bentley, the measure's lead sponsor, said Wednesday that the state was taking “an important step toward remediating” the opioid epidemic.
“Our citizens have suffered for far too long, and this settlement, once final, will allow Kentucky to combat that suffering,” he said.
Kentucky could use the settlement money for substance-abuse treatment, prevention and other programs related to opioid abuse.
“There is hardly a family anywhere in the commonwealth that has been immune to the scourge of opioids,” Cameron said. “We’ve lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians and seen families and children torn apart by the grips of addiction. Today’s announcement is for each one of them.”
Cameron, a Republican, has continued the aggressive actions taken by his Democratic predecessor, now-Gov. Andy Beshear, in pressing legal remedies against pharmaceutical companies in response to the state's opioid-addiction crisis.
An executive with Addiction Recovery Care, which provides treatment and recovery services in Kentucky, said the settlement funds would be “critical in helping us continue to do this important work.” Matt Brown, the organization's senior vice president of administration, thanked Beshear and Cameron for their “steadfast leadership” on the issue.
“The recovery community welcomes the opportunity to offer input on the best allocation of these funds, and we look forward to continuing these important conversations with state leaders,” Brown said in a statement.
More than 1,400 Kentuckians died from a fatal overdose in 2016 — a nearly 40% increase from just four years earlier — the large majority of which involved opioids, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. From September 2019 to September 2020, federal data showed Kentucky had 1,956 overdose deaths — a 50% increase compared to the previous 12-month period, which ranked third highest among all states, the Courier Journal reported.