Johnson & Johnson Agrees To Pay $230 Million To Resolve N.Y. Opioid Lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson building in Madrid.

Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million to settle a lawsuit from New York state over its sale and marketing of opioid painkillers, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Saturday, as state and local governments move to extract money from the pharmaceutical companies that developed the drugs to help combat an epidemic of addiction to them.

The settlement will remove Johnson & Johnson from a trial in a lawsuit brought by James against multiple pharmaceutical companies that’s set to start on Long Island next week.

Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million into a state-operated settlement fund to underwrite addiction recovery services, overdose prevention, training for healthcare providers and other opioid-related purposes.

James said Johnson & Johnson has agreed to stop selling opioids in the United States, but the company says it stopped selling prescription painkillers in the U.S. last year.

The settlement does not require Johnson & Johnson to admit any wrongdoing or liability, and the company called its marketing of painkillers “appropriate and responsible” in a Saturday morning statement.

Crucial Quote

“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the thousands who lost their lives or became addicted to opioids across our state or provide solace to the countless families torn apart by this crisis, these funds will be used to prevent any future devastation, James said in a statement.

Key Background

James sued Johnson & Johnson along with several other drugmakers in 2019, accusing the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company of aggressively marketing its opioid painkillers to doctors and inaccurately downplaying the risk of addiction. The lawsuit tied the company to a nationwide opioid abuse epidemic fueled largely by the overuse of powerful, addictive prescription drugs. Several other state and local officials have weighed action against Johnson & Johnson, and the company said last year it’s open to paying $5 billion in settlements.

Tangent

When James’ court case against drugmakers starts next week, it will not include the suit’s best-known target: Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Saddled with a federal criminal probe and hundreds of lawsuits, Purdue is navigating bankruptcy proceedings, and the company and members of the Sackler family — the company’s billionaire owners — are offering to pay billions of dollars in settlements and restructure Purdue as a public benefit company. This plan is controversial, with some politicians and advocates pushing back on a provision to make the Sackler family personally immune from future lawsuits.

I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at jwalsh@forbes.com.

Source: Johnson & Johnson Agrees To Pay $230 Million To Resolve N.Y. Opioid Lawsuit

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Critics:

The opioid epidemic, also referred to as the opioid crisis, is the phrase used to describe the overuse, misuse/abuse, and overdose deaths attributed either in part or in whole to the class of drugs opiates/opioids, and the significant medical, social, psychological, and economic consequences of both the medical and the non-medical or recreational use of these medications.

Opioids are a diverse class of moderate to strong painkillers, including oxycodone (commonly sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) and a very strong painkiller, fentanyl, which is synthesized to resemble other opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin. The potency and availability of these substances, despite the potential risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as medical treatments and as recreational drugs.

Due to their sedative effects on the part of the brain which regulates breathing, the respiratory center of the medulla oblongata, opioids in high doses present the potential for respiratory depression and may cause respiratory failure and death. Opioids are highly effective for treating acute pain, but a debate rages over whether they are effective in treating chronic (long term) or high impact intractable pain, as the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Most deaths worldwide from opioids and prescription drugs are from sexually transmitted infections passed through shared needles – citation needed. This has led to a global initiative of needle exchange programs and research into the varying needle types carrying STIs. In Europe, prescription opioids account for three‐quarter of overdose deaths, which represent 3.5% of total deaths among 15-39-year-olds.

Some worry that the epidemic could become a worldwide pandemic if not curtailed.Prescription drug abuse among teenagers in Canada, Australia, and Europe were comparable to U.S. teenagers. In Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and in parts of China, surveys found that one in ten students had used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. Similar high rates of non-medical use were found among the young throughout Europe, including Spain and the United Kingdom.

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