ST. PAUL — Minnesota can expect to see $337 million in payments from opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three large pharmaceutical distributors, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday, July 21.

Minnesota was one of several states to settle with the drug company as part of a $26 billion agreement acknowledging the company's role in the country's opioid addiction epidemic. Fifteen states also partnered to probe whether the three pharmaceutical distributors declined to ship opioid orders that seemed questionable.

The settlement would bring in funds from Johnson & Johnson and drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen over the next 18 years with funding aimed at paying for opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.

Johnson & Johnson would also be banned from selling opioids under the agreement and the three distributors would have to report where opioids are going and head off suspicious orders. The settlement is the latest reached by coalitions of states in an effort to hold drug companies to account for their role in promoting opioid painkillers while providing few warnings about their addictive qualities.

Public health experts have said the introduction and widespread prescription of painkillers in the late 1990s spurred the opioid epidemic in the United States. And in Minnesota, Department of Health officials report that 4,821 people died of opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2019. In 2020, the number of opioid overdose deaths jumped to 654, a 59% increase compared to the year earlier.

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“There is no amount of money that can ever make up for the death and destruction these companies caused in the pure pursuit of profit. No amount of money can bring back the nearly 5,000 lives we lost in Minnesota or fully restore the communities devastated in every part of our state,” Ellison said in a news release. “But it is still critically important to hold these companies financially accountable for their role in creating and extending the opioid crisis, and this agreement does that and more."

Minnesota's Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council will decide how the state will allocate the funds over the next 18 years.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email