Attorney General Mark Brnovich Announces Drug Distributors and Johnson & Johnson Commit to $26 Billion Opioid Agreement

PHOENIX --- Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today that the $26 billion opioid agreement with three major pharmaceutical distributors and a manufacturer for their roles in the opioid crisis is moving forward and will be finalized. The settlement includes Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – and Johnson & Johnson – which manufactured and marketed opioids. Following successful state sign-on and subdivision sign-on periods, the defendants will start releasing funds to a national administrator on April 2, 2022. Money will start flowing to state and local governments in the second quarter of 2022. Arizona and its political subdivisions will receive $542 million over 18 years. The State of Arizona’s share of the recovery is $238.5 million.

“We have lost far too many Arizonans to the opioid crisis and many others are still suffering and seeking help on their road to recovery," said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "These settlement dollars will provide critical funding for opioid treatments, prevention, and education to help keep our communities safe.”

The settlement comes as a result of investigations by state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs. This is the second-largest multistate agreement in U.S. history, second only to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.   
52 states and territories have signed on to the settlement, as well as thousands of local governments across the country. The funds will be distributed through the One Arizona Distribution of Opioid Settlement Funds Agreement (One Arizona Plan). In October 2020, the AGO and local governments signed on to the One Arizona Plan to maximize Arizona’s amount of recovery from opioid settlements. The One Arizona Plan also ensures that funds will be expeditiously distributed across Arizona to abate the opioid crisis going forward, and every Arizona county, city, and town has signed on to the One Arizona Plan. Read more on the One Arizona Plan here.
In addition to the funds, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen will: 

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

Johnson & Johnson is required to: 

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

Civil Litigation Division Chief Counsel Joseph Sciarrotta, Jr., Senior Litigation Counsel Jennifer Bonham, Consumer Litigation Unit Chief Matthew du Mée, and Consumer Protection Section Chief Leslie Kyman Cooper handled this case.

Additional information about the opioid settlements is available here

Additional AGO Actions
Today’s announcement is the latest action that Attorney General Brnovich has taken to combat the opioid epidemic and hold bad actors accountable.

The AGO also offers a free opioid awareness and prevention program for the public. Additionally, the AGO offers training for faith leaders and law enforcement across Arizona on how to administer Narcan, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication. The faith leader training is part of a toolkit created by the AGO to help churches and places of worship better serve the needs of parishioners who are battling addiction.