Historic settlement of more than $460 million brings hope in fight against the opioid epidemic

By Daniel Cameron

Kentucky Attorney General

FRANKFORT, Ky. – After long and hard-fought negotiations, I was proud to announce a historic agreement with opioid companies for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic that has ravaged Kentucky communities for more than a decade.  The agreement will return more than $460 million to the Commonwealth and provide state and local governments with substantial funds to help Kentuckians who struggle with addiction by supporting opioid abatement programs.

The agreement was reached with opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, as well as Johnson & Johnson, for its role in manufacturing and marketing opioids.  Our office collaborated with attorneys general across the country to investigate how the distributors failed to fulfill their legal duty by shipping opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and how Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

Holding these companies accountable for their part in the opioid crisis has been a top priority since day one of my administration.  And, as a candidate, I ran on fighting the opioid epidemic.  Our team has worked diligently to deliver on that promise.  It is what you should expect from our office, and it is what we will continue to do.

There is hardly a family anywhere in the Commonwealth that has been immune to the scourge of opioids. We have lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians in opioid-related deaths, seen families torn apart by the grips of addiction, seen parents lose children in the prime of their lives, and seen the number of children in state care rise.

I hope that our fight to secure this money demonstrates that we will use every available tool to support the important work that is being done to treat addiction, support individuals in recovery, and expand access to opioid abatement programs. 

The agreement does not conclude the process, but it is a major next step in our efforts to return these settlement dollars to the Commonwealth.

Our office is now reviewing the agreement.  I assure you that we will read the terms carefully to make sure they are right and fair for the Commonwealth.  We are optimistic that the settlement will go forward and the Commonwealth will receive the maximum payment of more than $460 million, because all of our local governments are on board as a result of the passage of House Bill 427.

This bill, sponsored by Representative Danny Bentley and passed with bipartisan support by the General Assembly earlier this year, outlines how the funds from the settlement will be distributed. Fifty percent of the funds will go to local governments and fifty percent will go to the Commonwealth to be distributed by the Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission.  This commission will be comprised of nine volunteer members representing, among others, victims of the opioid crisis, representatives from the treatment and prevention community, and law enforcement.  The commission will undertake an application and reporting process to ensure funds are awarded only for opioid abatement.

The passage of this bill is the ultimate example of what happens when politics is cast aside in favor of coming together for the benefit of all Kentuckians.  We partnered with legislative leadership, including Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne, as well as the Kentucky Association of Counties, the Kentucky League of Cities, and many others to reach the terms outlined in House Bill 427 and to ensure that the Commonwealth was in line to receive maximum funding from the settlement with the distributors. 

No state was harder hit by the opioid epidemic than Kentucky, and recovery will be a long process.  But, this announcement brings hope and help. I remain committed to the promise I made when I ran for office and will continue the fight at every turn for you, your families, and our Commonwealth.

Daniel Cameron is the 51st Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.