Native American tribes reach $590 million opioid settlement with J&J, drug distributors

Money from tentative deal would go toward addiction, treatment; would be overseen by Native American leaders

The three largest U.S. drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay $590 million to resolve claims by Native American tribes that the companies fueled an opioid epidemic in their communities. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

The three largest U.S. drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have agreed to pay $590 million US to resolve claims by Native American tribes that the companies fuelled an opioid epidemic in their communities, according to court filings.

Tuesday’s deal came after the distributors, McKesson Corp. , AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc., along with J&J, last year proposed paying up to $26 billion to resolve similar claims by states and local governments.

That proposed settlement, though, did not resolve lawsuits and potential claims by the country’s 574 federally recognized Native American tribes and Alaska Native villages, which experienced higher rates of opioid overdoses compared to other communities.

Under Tuesday’s settlement, the three distributors will pay nearly $440 million over seven years. That is on top of the $75 million they agreed in September to pay the Cherokee Nation in the first settlement with a tribe.

J&J agreed to pay $150 million over two years, according to a court filing in federal court in Cleveland. J&J said the money will be deducted from its $5 billion portion of the bigger $26 billion settlement.

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