Drug giant Johnson & Johnson recently reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Letitia James to pay $230 million to resolve an opioid lawsuit.
This comes days before the company was scheduled to go to court on Long Island and four months after James settled with the consulting firm McKinsey for $32 million.
To the outrage of advocates, much of the McKinsey settlement was swept into the general fund.
To prevent that from happening again, the New York state Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Gustavo Rivera that would instead direct all opioid settlement money into a lockbox to ensure current and future funding for addiction treatment services and recovery.
But what’s so unusual about this latest J&J settlement is that the attorney general stipulated that that company will pay $30 million more in payments in the first year if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the opioid settlement fund into law.
When asked for a statement, the Governor’s Office sent an email stating that the bill remains under review.
James’ efforts have plenty of fans in the Legislature.
“I want to thank Attorney General James for this amazing work that she did, leading a multi-state effort, to make sure that we get from these private companies, many of whom have profited off the pain and death of our neighbors and friends and family members,” Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who also chairs the Senate Health Committee, told Capital Tonight. “We will never get these folks back, but we want to make sure that we can address some of the harm that has been caused by (opioid manufacturers).
Rivera said James negotiated a settlement that dictates that any state that is entitled to a piece of the settlement funding, would have to ensure the money goes toward treatment and recovery.
Gov. Cuomo has a deadline of the end of this month to sign the bill. According to Rivera, there is currently an effort underway to include some chapter amendments or change the legislation.
He isn’t supporting any changes.
“The bill, as it stands, is exactly as it should be,” Rivera said. “His non-signature means that the state will not receive $230 million and that would be incredibly sad.”