COLUMBUS – Ohio has forged an $808 million agreement with the three largest distributors of opioids that puts the state at the front of the line to receive monetary relief for communities ravaged by the addiction crisis, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced this week.

“This is a historic day for Ohio,” Yost said during an afternoon press conference. “We have $800 million coming to Ohio to fix this mess – what lawyers call ‘abatement.’”

The deal is better than the national settlement with distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, the attorney general said. “We were able to get the companies to agree to pay the state’s attorney fees on top of the settlement — so the settlement amount will not be reduced by legal fees.”

The settlement makes good on Yost’s promise to partner with local governments to fight the opioid epidemic.

“With this resolution, we have some important controls and monitoring provisions in place to help protect Ohioans and its communities from the reckless distribution and over-prescriptions that we have seen in previous years,” he said.

Under the agreement, Ohio cities and counties will begin receiving long-overdue compensation as early as November, and the money is guaranteed even if the national agreement doesn’t come to fruition.

The settlement, which is scheduled to be paid over 18 years, also calls for a continuous annual flow of settlement money, meaning that the distributors can pay extra in a given year, but that additional money will come off the back end so that there is no disruption of payments.

Ohio has been a steadfast leader in the opioid fight. It was among the very first states to sue the distributors and manufacturers over their wanton and reckless pushing of these dangerous drugs. Led by Yost and Gov. Mike DeWine, the state developed the OneOhio plan, a mechanism to ensure that any money from a negotiated settlement is distributed fairly to the communities hit hardest by the opioid crisis. The settlement was supported by 99% of those so-called “litigating subdivisions.”

OneOhio has been incorporated into the settlement, with 85 percent of the settlement money targeted for local distribution:

55% goes to a foundation created to disburse the money and fund programs that benefit Ohioans affected by opioids and/or prevent addiction.

30% is earmarked for community recovery programs at the local level.

15% goes to the state of Ohio.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen must also make significant internal changes to help prevent a similar crisis.

The three companies must:

Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.

Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.

Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators when they show certain signs of diversion.

Prohibit shipping of suspicious opioid orders and report such suspicious orders.

Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.

From 2010 to 2019, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of more than 23,700 Ohioans, with countless others having had their lives and/or communities torn apart by opioid addiction.

Tragically, opioid overdose deaths nationwide rose last year to a record 93,000, nearly a 30 percent increase over the previous year. During the second quarter of 2020 in Ohio, 11 of every 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose, the state’s highest mortality rate at any point during the epidemic.