Johnson & Johnson will pay an additional $1 billion in opioid settlement funds.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced it will contribute up to $1 billion in additional funds to settle lawsuits alleging it and other companies fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic. The additional payment brings the total contribute by the company to $5 billion. As part of the same deal, distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen will dish out a combined $18 billion. J&J indicated “the additional $1 billion reflect(s) continued negotiations” and the deal is not yet finalized.
Paul Hanly, a lead attorney for local governments pursuing federal lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, said plaintiffs were “very pleased with J&J’s agreement to resolve the cases…We are hopeful other companies defending the numerous litigations will see the wisdom of this step forward.”
J&J is separately appealing a $465 million judgment issued last year in a lawsuit with the state of Oklahoma. However, Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, had sought even more prior to the judgment.
“We would have liked to walk out of here with $17 billion, but we’ve been able to put together a billion dollars,” Hunter said, making reference to previous settlements with Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Yet, he added, “Judge Balkman has affirmed our position that Johnson & Johnson maliciously and diabolically created the opioid epidemic in our state.”
“You can argue that there are problems with the decision. You can argue that it’s a lot less than the $17 billion [Oklahoma] asked for. But you can’t take away the fact that we now have a decision, decided by a United States court, in which a large amount of damages were given,” said Nicolas Terry, executive director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University.
During the trial, Oklahoma mental health commissioner Terri White claimed J&J “unleashed a series of bombs,” pushing addictive opioids onto Oklahomans, resulting in the overdose deaths of more than 6,100 “without telling us you were going to do this, without you still accepting any responsibility today.” She added that J&J was better positioned to be proactive in the crisis and needs to stop blaming Oklahoma for not being more reactive. “We are the only reason, the only reason, that lives are being saved in the state – (then) you say to us, ‘You didn’t build bomb shelters fast enough,” she said at trial. “You didn’t purchase enough bullet proof vests. You couldn’t run from us fast enough.’ No, I do not agree with that.”
J&J originally signed on to pay more than $572 million to “immediately abate the nuisance” according to court documents, concerning its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which was accused of using “misleading marketing and promotion” of opioids. The judge later reduced the amount to $465 million.
“This additional amount results from continued negotiations and is intended to maximize participation in the settlement,” J&J wrote in a statement. “The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve. The settlement will provide certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for families and communities in need.”