Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors have agreed to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits across the country over the opioid crisis. 

Counties, cities, and states accused the companies of playing a critical role in the opioid crisis and claim they exacerbated the issue by funneling painkillers to communities, leading to the deaths of over 500,000 people due to overdose between 2009 and 2019. 

Per NBC News: 

The agreement still requires the approval of more than 40 states and hundreds of cities and counties. Once it is finalized, it would result in billions of dollars flowing to states to be used for prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Under the proposed agreement, the three distributors will dish out $21 billion over the next 18 years while Johnson & Johnson is required to pay out $5 billion over the next 9 years. Of that $5 billion, J&J will be ordered to pay $3.7 billion in the first three years. 

"Millions of people across the nation are sick or dead from opioid addiction," nine state attorneys general said in a joint statement Tuesday. "State attorneys general have been hard at work negotiating on their behalf for years to force these companies to pay to combat the opioid epidemic they helped to create and fuel. Our negotiations are progressing well and potentially nearing their completion." 

"We look forward to bringing much-needed dollars home to our states to help people recover from opioid addiction and to fundamentally change the opioid manufacturing and distributing industries so this never happens again," the statement concluded.