Attorney General Kathy Jennings

Attorney General Kathy Jennings speaks during an announcement of a $26 billion lawsuit settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three of its distributors over the opioid epidemic

Through tears, Executive Director of atTAck addiction Don Keister described the moments during the day when his son, Tyler, crosses his mind unexpectedly. 

"In 2012, Tyler passed away. There were 126 overdose deaths that year. We have increased every year since," he said. "We still have a long way to go, and atTAck addiction is going to continue that...You never know when it's going to hit you, that you become upset, and think about your son. We think about him every day. But this, hopefully, will help us get to a point where we can defeat this."

Standing at a podium in the offices of the Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Keister recalled his son's struggle with addition to opioids on a day the state celebrated its role in a $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three of its main distributors, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. 

"There were 431 people who died in 2019. And I believe that number has risen again in 2020. It's stunning," Jennings said. "Each one of those numbers represents a human life that has been taken from their friends, from their families that have been devastated."

Describing the sheer immensity of the overwhelming war being fought on the streets of Delaware to combat this crisis, Jennings detailed the volume of opioid being pumped into Delaware, to even the smallest corners of the state. 

"The number of prescription pills that have flooded into our state was orders of magnitude beyond any legitimate medical needs. Two hundred and seventy six million prescription painkillers--with the potency of more than five tons of morphine--were shipped into this state from 2006 to 2012," she said. "Two million pills went to Selbyville alone which, at that time, was home to just 2,000 people...All the while, Big Pharma made money hand-over-fist. And we have paid dearly for that."

The settlement being announced Thursday was $4 billion dollars more than what Jennings said Johnson & Johnson had proposed two years ago, but she said states held out for better funding from one of the companies responsible for the current epidemic in hopes that they would be able to achieve better funding for services to combat the issue. 

That translated to roughly $20 million more dollars for Delaware, she said, which is expected to receive roughly $100 million over the course of the 17-year timeframe established in the settlement, with $20 million of that being made available in the first year. 

"The truth is that all the money in the world can't make whole the families who have paid the very real costs of this epidemic," Jennings said. "But we can still save lives going forward. And that's the goal of the money that we will receive."

The distributors will need to pay $21 billion over 17 years, while Johnson & Johnson are responsible for $5 billion over nine years, with $3.7 billion to be paid during the first three. 

All of the money received must be attributed to any of a number of programs, operations, and efforts classified as abatement of opioid use disorder. 

"We're here today to talk about the second of hopefully many settlement suits," said Dave Humes, also with atTack Addiction, who lost his son Greg in 2012. "The settlement will be providing sufficient funds to the state of Delaware--the sole intent of the distribution of these funds should be to help those Delawareans who have literally been drug into addiction."

The distributors, as part of the settlement, must take action to prohibit the shipment of--and to report--suspicious opioid orders, and prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identification of those kinds of orders, while senior corporate officials must engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts. 

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson must stop selling opioids altogether, while also discontinuing the funding of third parties promoting opioids and lobbying on activities relating to opioids. 

Settlement funds for Delaware will be deposited into the state's Opioid Settlement Fund Commission, managed by an "independent, multilateral panel of stakeholders" who will allocate the funds to efforts of "abatement, prevention, and treatment."