The state of Georgia decided to join a proposed $26 billion nationwide settlement resolving lawsuits alleging that three large drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson fueled the deadly U.S. opioid epidemic, Reuters reports. Friday's announcement by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr marked the latest instance of a holdout state opting into the landmark agreements with J&J, McKesson Corp , AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc AmerisourceBergen said it was "pleased to see the increased commitment to participation in the global settlement process." More than 3,300 lawsuits, largely by state and local governments, seek to hold those and other companies responsible for an opioid abuse crisis that led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths over two decades.
The distributors have agreed to pay up to $21 billion and J&J agreed to pay up to $5 billion. The extent to which state and local governments participate will shape how much the companies ultimately must pay and how much outstanding litigation they face. The settlement's backers have extended to Jan. 26 a deadline for cities and counties in states that backed the proposal to opt in to the settlements, citing the potential for more states to join. Nevada this week the distributors' agreement and settled with J&J. New Mexico backed the deal in December. Five states are left for the distributors to contend with, including the state of Washington, which has taken them to trial. Six states have not agreed to settle with J&J.