CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion deal to settle lawsuits over the toll of prescription opioids.
The state of West Virginia itself is not part of this settlement, but it could receive funds from drug maker Johnson & Johnson. However, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says he will likely oppose the settlement agreement.
“Right now I’m a very likely no. We’re going to of course look through all of the materials as they come in on the upcoming weeks but we need something better,” said Morrisey.
Morrisey says he’s against it for a couple of reasons. “Because we know that we do better when we’re able to craft something and negotiate something on our own with these companies.”
And this settlement would not have an impact on Cabell County and Huntington’s ongoing lawsuit against the three drug distributors, because it’s a separate case. Closing arguments are scheduled for next week.
“Huntington-Cabell will not get any money out of this formula from the distributors because they will have received a judgment so they will be excluded. They will not be excluded from the Johnson & Johnson,” said Attorney Rusty Webb, who represents Cabell County & Huntington.
The biggest argument against this settlement is that it’s based on population, and not needs and severe damage the opioid epidemic has caused. “They want to give us nothing. Virtually nothing and they want to keep all of the big money, for the big states and the big populations that they don’t need because they don’t have an opioid problem,” said Webb.
Morrisey adds, “We shouldn’t be treated like other states across the country.”
To put all of this in perspective, the federal government announced last week there were 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, the highest ever recorded. The Appalachian region was among the hardest hit in the nation.
Full details of the settlement could come as early as this week, however it could take months for state and local governments to reach an agreement.