Johnson & Johnson settles for $20M with 2 OH counties over opioids

Henrietta Brewer
October 2, 2019

It's the first time J&J, the world's largest maker of health-care products, agreed to settle an opioid-related lawsuit.

If the agreements are finalized, Johnson & Johnson would provide $10 million to Cuyahoga and Summit counties and $5 million to reimburse legal and other expenses.

The company - which made a fentanyl patch and two versions of an opioid tablet - did not admit wrongdoing. The company went to trial to fight Oklahoma's allegations that it illegally marketed the medicines and lost.

Tuesday's announcement comes after a landmark ruling in August which ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572m (£468m) for its part in fuelling Oklahoma's opioid addiction crisis. "They certainly got out cheap".

J&J became the fourth drugmaker to settle claims ahead of the Federal Court trial against multiple manufacturers and distributors in Cleveland scheduled for later this month.

"The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation's opioid crisis", J&J said in a statement. "At the same time, the Company remains prepared to defend its actions", the statement said.

Four other drug makers have already settled ahead of the October 21 trial, but McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Henry Schein Inc. are still listed as defendants, according to Reuters.

In addition to Teva, the defendants still in the OH trial include drug distributors such as Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen and retail pharmacy chains such as Walgreens. The other defendants still in the trial are distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Henry Schein and McKesson, along with the pharmacy chain Walgreens. Those companies are accused of turning a blind eye to red flags about unusually large opioid shipments and employing lax compliance standards to rake in billions in profits. West Virginia had the highest rate at 57.8 per 100,000, the CDC said.

In a statement, the lead lawyers for the federal plaintiffs - Joe Rice, Paul J. Hanly Jr. and Paul T. Farrell Jr. - said that the Johnson & Johnson settlement brought the payment for the two OH counties so far to $60 million.

"It makes the case easier to present to the jury and easier for the judge to manage", Tobias said.

The case is In Re National Prescription Opioid Litigation, 17-md-2804, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).

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