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States and local governments on Wednesday announced a tentative $26 billion nationwide settlement over the opioid epidemic, according to a news release from the Buchanan County Attorney’s Office.

The settlement is with drug maker Johnson & Johnson and wholesale distributors, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen.

Iowa counties played an integral role in this settlement having filed lawsuits in 2017 and litigating those cases since that time. Thousands of local county and city governments across the United States have since joined in the Iowa counties’ effort.

Erin Dickinson of Crueger Dickinson is representing Iowa counties and is a member of the Executive Committee comprised of representative lawyers leading the nationwide litigation.

“This tentative settlement is a very important step in bringing resolution to the litigation surrounding an epidemic that has had a devastating impact on our county clients both in Iowa and across the nation,” she said.

The proposed $26 billion nationwide settlement follows negotiations between representatives for state and local governments and the four defendants. In addition to the monetary payments, the defendants have agreed to fundamental changes in their business practices to help abate the epidemic and make sure it does not happen again, the news release says.

Before becoming final, the nationwide tentative settlement agreement must meet the approval of two groups, says the news release. First, states have 30 days to decide whether to participate in the settlement. If enough states agree, then counties and cities have the opportunity to accept the terms. A critical mass of state and local governments must agree to the terms before funds are released to the communities that have been impacted by the epidemic.

“We in Buchanan County, hope and expect that our Attorney General colleagues will advance this settlement quickly so that we have the opportunity to consider its terms and bring much needed relief to Buchanan County in the form of critical resources that can help fix this epidemic, stop it from growing and hopefully prevent it from happening again,” said Buchanan County Attorney Shawn M. Harden.

Dickinson said: “There is much more work to do on the settlement, but I’m cautiously optimistic this step marks the conclusion of a significant phase of one of the most important pieces of litigation in U.S. history. Our firm is proud to have played a leadership role in that litigation and to support Iowa counties in their fight against the opioid epidemic.”

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