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New York settles with 'Big 3' opioid distributors for $1.1B

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, wearing a gray suit and brown tie, speaks at a microphone and podium that includes the sign "FIGHTING THE OPIOID CRISIS"
Office of the Suffolk County Executive
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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announces another settlement in the ongoing opioid trial at the court house in Central Islip on July 20, 2021.

New York has agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement with three of the nation’s largest drug distributors — Cardinal Health, McKesson and Amerisource Bergen — over claims they helped fuel the opioid epidemic.

This is the latest settlement in the state’s lawsuit against multiple opioid distributors, pharmacies and manufacturers and the largest during the tenure of Attorney General Leticia james.

"Over the course of these past two decades, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen distributed these opioids without regard to the national crisis they were helping to fuel, but today we’re holding them accountable," James said Tuesday. "While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, or the countless communities decimated by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing any future devastation.”

The agreement also requires the distributors to create a clearinghouse of their opioid shipments to help flag suspicious orders.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the money is critical for drug treatment and prevention programs especially because of the uptick in opioid abuse during the pandemic.

“These dollars are going to help lift that burden off of taxpayers, they’re going to help move forward with additional programs to battle the ongoing opioid epidemic to provide some relief,” Bellone said.

The money will be paid out over 18 years. Officials said Nassau could receive $115 million and Suffolk $120 million. Other counties are expected to receive similar amounts.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the money is necessary during a pandemic-related surge in opioid overdoses.

“We want to make sure that we have enough funding for mental health, for prevention treatments, for education, and also for supporting the communities that have been hardest hit by the epidemic of drugs, of opioids, here on Long Island,” Curran said.

The lawsuit trial will continue against three drug makers, who have yet to settle: Teva, Endo and Allergan.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.