Illinois gets $760M as part of opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson, 3 drug distribution companies

Illinois will receive about $760 million from a nationwide settlement finalized Friday with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors over their role in the opioid addiction crisis.

The money will come from a $26 billion legal settlement announced last year.

The state’s portion will be distributed to local governments to combat the opioid crisis, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Friday.

Checks could be cut as soon as April, but none of the money will go directly to opioid victims or their families.

"The opioid epidemic has destroyed countless lives and families throughout our state and devastated communities and it’s imperative that the resources reach these areas and be used to abate the problem," Raoul said Friday during a news conference.

"To date more than 290 units of local government in Illinois have joined the settlement, this includes 94 of the state’s 102 counties and 104 of 113 municipalities that are eligible to receive direct resources," he said.

The plan was announced last year by Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson but the deal was contingent on getting a critical mass of state and local governments to sign on to it.

The companies had until Friday to decide whether they felt they had enough participation.

A state advisory board will help determine how much money is distributed and where by taking into account factors such as population, rates of opioid use, overdose deaths and the amount of opioids shipped into various parts of the state.

The legal gears have been grinding on the case for more than four years.

And the problem remains acute.

Opioid overdoses in Illinois increased 33% from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, there were 2,944 opioid overdose fatalities — more than twice the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and more than twice the number of homicides, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Raoul also said that baked into the agreement with the drug distributors was a safeguard meant to weed out suspiciously high orders of opioids "so that history doesn’t repeat itself."