$230 million paid by Johnson & Johnson to New York State to settle opioid claim
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay USD 230 million to New York state to settle claims that the pharmaceutical giant helped fuel the opioid crisis, Attorney General Letitia James said on Saturday. The drugmaker also agreed to permanently end the manufacturing and distribution of opioids across New York and the rest of the nation, James said in a statement announcing the settlement. The company “helped fuel this fire, but today they’re committing to leaving the opioid business not only in New York, but across the entire country,” she said.
The deal involving a lawsuit brought by James in 2019 removes Johnson & Johnson from a trial that is slated to begin next week on Long Island — part of a slew of litigation over an epidemic linked to nearly 500,000 deaths over the last two decades.
The governments allege that the pharmaceutical industry pushed opioids to be prescribed and distributed beyond what was medically necessary, creating widespread addiction that led to higher abuse of illegal opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. The companies have broadly denied the claims and said they sold or distributed a legal, federally regulated product that is necessary for pain management.
The $230 million to New York will be paid over nine years, but more than half could come as soon as February if all of the local governments that have sued agreed to join the deal, and if a new state law is signed by the governor that creates a special fund to use opioid settlements to help abate the crisis.
The lawsuit, like the others that have gone to trial, alleges that the companies created a public nuisance by flooding the communities with opioids. The New York trial’s first phase, expected to last four months, will determine solely if the companies are liable. If a jury finds that they are, a separate proceeding would assess how much money they owe the state and counties.
The trial will be distinct from those that have taken place in Oklahoma, California and West Virginia because it will involve players from across the supply chain. That will make it harder for companies to blame others for causing the problem, said Elizabeth Burch, a law professor at the University of Georgia.