Contact 2: Recent opioid-related settlements and proposals evoke reaction

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SAINT LOUIS, MO- Four years ago this week, Greg McNeil of Hudson, Ohio lost his 28-year-old son, Sam to a heroin overdose. McNeil says he applauds Monday’s settlement but questions its true impact.

“The numbers that we’re talking about, while they sound very, very impressive…for this battle, it’s gonna take much more than that at $260 million,” said McNeil.

The settlement he’s referencing was reached just as an opioid trial was set to begin. Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson will pay a collective $215 million immediately. Teva Pharmaceutical owes $20 million with $5 million of that to be paid before the end of the year.

Those companies, plus Johnson and Johnson, are also involved in a different $48 billion dollar proposal put forth by attorneys general from four states. It includes $22 billion in cash and another $26 billion in “medication-assisted treatment drugs and their distribution” over a ten-year period. It also includes an agreement for the companies to change their policies to prevent future over-distribution of opioids.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt reacted to the news with a statement that reads in part: “the simple truth is: Missourians need help, and they need it now – they can’t afford to wait for years and years of litigation.” In June, Schmitt filed a motion to expand the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and the other defendants originally filed in 2017 by then-Attorney General Josh Hawley.

“We allege these insurance companies knowingly deceived Missourians and misled doctors and providers about the highly addictive nature of these drugs, all the while raking in billions in profits,” said Schmitt in April 2019.

Despite the settlement, the drug companies deny wrongdoing, saying the drugs underwent intense FDA tests and feature warning labels detailing the risk of addiction. That still stings Greg McNeil.

“If they would have taken responsibility for misleading the public and causing the epidemic, then I think we would have had some opportunity, a little bit of closure for families throughout America that have lost loved ones. But sadly, that hasn’t happened.”

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