Delaware Could Get More Than $100M In Opioid Settlement

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware could receive more than $100 million under a proposed $26 billion nationwide settlement with producers and distributors of opioid painkillers, state officials said Wednesday.

The proposed settlement is the result of a yearslong effort by state and local governments to force the pharmaceutical industry to help pay the costs of opioid addiction. The deal involves the nation’s three biggest drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Under the deal, Johnson & Johnson would pay up to $5 billion and would not produce any opioids for at least a decade.

Distributors AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health would contribute $6.4 billion each, while McKesson would pay $7.9 billion. The companies also would share prescribing information under a new system intended to stem the tide of addictive painkillers being distributed to and doled out by local pharmacies.

States would have until Aug. 20 to approve the settlement, while local governments that have filed their own lawsuits would have until Jan. 1 to sign on.

In Delaware, Kent and Sussex counties, as well as the cities of Dover and Seaford, have filed their own suits against the opioid industry.

According to state officials, 447 overdose deaths were reported in Delaware last year, up from 431 in 2019 and 400 in 2018. Of the 447 overdose deaths in 2020, 372, or $83%, involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. That’s up from the 79% of overdose deaths in 2019 that were attributed to fentanyl.

Last month, Delaware lawmakers passed legislation establishing a Prescription Opioid Settlement Fund and Prescription Opioid Distribution Commission to ensure that settlement money is used to prevent and treat opioid addiction and is not diverted to other purposes.