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Nevada reverses course, joins multi-state opioid settlement

January 5, 2022 GMT

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford on Tuesday announced that Nevada intends to reverse course and join a multi-state opioid settlement that months ago he rejected as insufficient.

Nevada was one of several states that did not join a $26 billion settlement with the nation’s three major drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson in July. Ford said at the time that Nevada would seek separate compensation.

“After multiple new developments, I ultimately decided that it was in Nevada’s best interest to join this settlement,” Ford, a Democrat, said.

In October, Ford told The Associated Press he was confident Nevada would obtain more compensation if it went to trial against the companies, but also was willing to entertain a settlement. On Tuesday, he said a federal judge’s decision to reject the terms that Purdue Pharma reached in bankruptcy court in September likely meant the delivery of settlement dollars to Nevada would be delayed.

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Many states opposed the deal because it would have prevented them from suing members the Sackler Family, which owns Purdue. Ford said the case and several other court decisions convinced him joining the multi-state settlement would be the quickest way to provide relief to Nevada communities affected by the opioid epidemic.

Ford said Nevada is set to receive about $285 million in damages, including $231.7 million from the three distributors — McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. — over a 17-year period. Johnson & Johnson will pay Nevada $53.5 million, the vast majority of which will be disbursed this year.

That’s a much faster timeframe than most of the settlements between other states and Johnson & Johnson, many of which are payable over a period of nine years, he said.

State and local governments faced a deadline on Sunday to sign onto the proposed settlement with the Johnson & Johnson and the distributors. Ford said between January 2019 and October 2021, 1,300 Nevadans died from opioids, not including overdoses and emergency room visits.

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Among the eight states that did not agree to the $26 billion settlement this summer, New Mexico also reversed course and joined the proposed settlement after initially rejecting it. Holdout states like Alabama have not announced plans to join the proposed settlement. Washington is taking the three distributors to trial.

The reversal and decision to join the settlement is a different outcome for Ford than his decision last year to reject a separate multi-state settlement with McKinsey & Company for its role in advising opioid makers how to sell more prescription painkillers amid a national overdose crisis.

Nevada sat out the agreement and ultimately struck its own $45 million with the consulting firm — more than three and a half times larger than the average settlement with other states.

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Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.