By Jonathan Stempel
Johnson & Johnson said on Saturday it will pay $263 million to resolve claims it fueled an opioid epidemic in New York state and two of its largest counties.
The settlements remove the drugmaker from a jury trial scheduled to begin on Tuesday on Long Island, where several big opioid makers and distributors are also defendants.
Johnson & Johnson did not admit liability or wrongdoing in settling with New York state, and with Nassau and Suffolk counties. The $229.9 million state settlement also calls for J&J to stop selling the painkillers nationwide.
“The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc” across the nation, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson helped fuel this fire.”
She said her focus remains “getting funds into communities devastated by opioids as quickly as possible.”
J&J said the settlements were consistent with its prior agreement to pay $5 billion to settle opioid claims by states, cities, counties and tribal governments nationwide.
The healthcare company and the largest U.S. drug distributors – AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp – have proposed paying a combined $26 billion to end thousands of opioid lawsuits.
J&J has also been appealing an Oklahoma judge’s 2019 ruling that the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company pay that state $465 million for its deceptive marketing of opioids.
Tuesday’s opioids trial is one of several scheduled for this year, with others underway in California and West Virginia.
Drugmakers AbbVie Inc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and several distributors are among the defendants. Pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc is also a defendant, though it was sued only by the counties.
Walmart Inc, Rite Aid Corp and CVS Health Corp were severed from the trial during jury selection. CVS has settled with Nassau and Suffolk counties. Settlement terms have not been disclosed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2019.