SEATTLE (AP) – Months into a complex trial over their role in flooding Washington with highly addictive painkillers, the nation’s three largest opioid distributors agreed Tuesday to pay the state $ 518 million, with the vast majority being directed toward easing the addiction epidemic.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the deal, noting that it’s worth tens of millions of dollars more than Washington would have received from the companies if it had signed onto a national settlement reached last summer involving the distributors and Johnson & Johnson.

The agreement still requires approval from a judge and from dozens of Washington cities that pursued their own cases against the distributors – McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

Under the settlement, the state would have to spend $ 476 million of the total to address the opioid crisis, including on substance abuse treatment; expanding access to overdose-reversal drugs; and providing housing, job placement and other services for those struggling with addiction. The rest of the money would go toward litigation costs.


“We could have joined the overwhelming majority of states and settled with the largest opioid distributors, but we chose to fight them in court instead,” Ferguson said. “That decision to take them to court will result in significant additional resources for Washington to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The three companies announced earlier this year that 46 states had signed onto the national settlement, under which they will pay nearly $ 20 billion over 18 years.

Ferguson, a Democrat, declined to join, calling what would have been the state’s $ 418 million share from the distributors insufficient. Instead, he decided to go to trial against the three distributors and separately against Johnson & Johnson.

The case against the distributors went to trial last November in King County Superior Court in Seattle, alleging violations of consumer protection and public nuisance laws, while the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson is scheduled to go to trial in September.

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