Idaho Signs on to Massive Nationwide Opioid Settlement, Expects up to $119 Million

Local governments in Idaho agreed to join the state in the nationwide $26 billion opioid settlement, and now the state could potentially get up to $119 million from the settlement.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said Monday all 24 eligible cities and 44 counties in the state agreed to sign up for the settlement against Johnson & Johnson and the three biggest drug distribution companies, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

The state previously joined the settlement back in August and could have received a minimum of $64 million from the settlement.

However, Governor Brad Little and Wasden opened up the settlement and allowed for local governments to join. After they accepted, the settlement increased, and the state could now receive up to $119 million.

"This level of participation shows the strong commitment of both the state and local governments to work together to obtain the most money to fight the opioid epidemic in Idaho," Wasden said in a statement.

For the settlement, Johnson & Johnson would pay Idaho $22 million over nine years. The three other drug distributors would pay $98 million to the state over the 18 years.

At least 40 percent of the money would go to the cities and counties, 40 percent would go to the state's opioid settlement fund, and the remaining 20 percent would go to the regional public health districts, according to the agreement.

By signing up for the national settlement, governments can no longer seek individual lawsuits against the companies.

Johnson & Johnson National Opioid Settlement
Idaho could get up to $119 million after joining the national opioid settlement against Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical distributors. Above, an entry sign to the Johnson & Johnson campus shows their logo in Irvine, California, on August 28, 2019. Above, the US pharmaceutical industry faces tens of billions of dollars in potential damage payments for fueling the opioid addiction crisis after Oklahoma won a $572 million judgment against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Mark Ralston/ AFP/Getty Images

The deadline nationally for local governments to accept the agreements is January 26, and enough must sign up for the settlements to take effect. An announcement in February is expected about whether the threshold has been met, Wasden said. If it is met, participants could see their first payments in April.

The Idaho Drug Overdose Prevention Program, established in 2016 to increase awareness of opioid use and prevent overdoses, said opioid overdose deaths have generally been trending upward the last several decades, increasing from just over 20 deaths a year in 2000 to 123 in 2016 and 116 in 2017.

"The opioid crisis is taking lives and destroying families in Idaho," Little said in June 2019 when he signed an executive order to combat opioid and substance misuse by establishing the Opioid Advisory Group to examine strategies.

The 40 percent of the settlement funds going to the state-directed opioid settlement fund, was created by lawmakers earlier this year and signed into law by Little. The Idaho Legislature would appropriate money from the fund based on recommendations by the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, which is part of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The settlement agreements, besides the payments, include increased accountability and oversight for the drug companies, changes in how prescriptions are distributed and sold, independent monitoring, a national database to help stop deliveries of opioids to pharmacies where misuse is occurring, and a ban on Johnson & Johnson from selling or promoting opioids.

A settlement has not been reached with Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and the company most closely associated with opioids.

A federal judge earlier this month rejected Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy settlement of thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic because of a provision that would protect members of the billionaire Sackler family, which own the company, from facing opioid-related civil lawsuits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Oregon, Opioid Settlement, J&J, Opioid Distributors
Each of Idaho’s 44 counties and all 24 eligible cities will participate in national opioid settlements, potentially bringing $119 million to the state. In this photo is a close-up of a white Oxycodone Hydrochloride 5 mg pill, marked 05 52, resting on its edge on a white surface, photographed in Lafayette, California, May 2021. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images