Payout From a National Opioids Settlement Won’t Be as Big as Hoped

Protesters outside the Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn., in 2018. The payout from opioid makers, distributors and retailers will fall short of what public health experts say is needed to heal the long-term effects of the crisis.Credit...Jessica Hill/Associated Press

As talks escalate to settle thousands of opioid-related lawsuits nationwide, a harsh reality is emerging: The money the pharmaceutical industry will pay to compensate ravaged communities will likely be far less than once envisioned.

Lawyers on all sides have been stepping up efforts to reach a national agreement before the start of a New York trial next month. But even plaintiff lawyers now believe the payout from dozens of opioid makers, distributors and retailers is likely to be less than half of what the four Big Tobacco companies agreed to pay more than 20 years ago in a landmark settlement with states over costs associated with millions of smoking-related deaths.