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J&J to pay $230 million to settle New York opioid claim

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $230 million to settle claims that it helped fuel the opioid crisis.
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $230 million to settle claims that it helped fuel the opioid crisis.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $230 million to New York state to settle claims that it helped fuel the opioid crisis, Atty. Gen. Letitia James said Saturday.

The pharmaceutical giant also agreed to permanently end the manufacturing and distribution of opioids across the U.S., 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 in 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.

Experts in probate law say the singer’s account is well within the realm of how conservatorship works. “You’re taking away a person’s right to make any decisions over themselves,” one said.

In a statement Saturday, Johnson & Johnson downplayed the attorney general’s announcement. The company said the settlement involved two prescription painkillers — developed by a subsidiary and accounting for less than 1% of the market — that already are no longer sold in the U.S.

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The settlement was “not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by the company,” Johnson & Johnson said. It added that its actions “relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible.”

The settlement was the latest development in a complicated array of opioid-related lawsuits across the U.S. that has drawn comparisons to multistate litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s. Some big drug companies see settling as being in their best interest, in part because that route would likely not cost as much as losing in court repeatedly.

Johnson & Johnson — along with pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — announced last year that they were offering a total of $26 billion over 18 years to settle all cases they face, with the money going to abate the crisis.


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