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Johnson & Johnson settles landmark opioid lawsuits for $20.4 million

Johnson & Johnson settles landmark opioid lawsuits for $20.4 million
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Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson late Tuesday announced a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties to resolve claims about the company’s role in creating the nation’s opioid crisis.

Under the settlement terms, Johnson & Johnson will pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties a combined $10 million. The company will also reimburse $5 million of the counties’ legal expenses, and will also direct $5.4 million of its charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations in connection with opioid-related programs in the two counties.

Johnson & Johnson will not admit any liability.

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“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,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need.”

The settlement comes just ahead of a federal trial scheduled to begin Oct. 21. The “bellwether” trial was originally scheduled to pit Summit and Cuyahoga counties against more than two dozen drug companies, pharmacies and distributors. 

A federal judge in Ohio has combined more than 2,500 claims from courts across the country as a test of how the plaintiff arguments will fare.The lawsuits from cities and Native American tribes are seeking financial compensation for consequences of the opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives since 1999.

The Johnson & Johnson settlement now leaves only six defendants left, including the country’s largest distributors, as well as Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains. Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures OxyContin, has reportedly been working on a settlement worth as much as $10 billion. The company has also filed for bankruptcy. 

In August, a judge in Oklahoma found Johnson & Johnson liable for allegedly helping to fuel Oklahoma’s opioid epidemic, and ordered the company to pay $572 million, but only to cover one year. The company has appealed. 

Johnson & Johnson said it remains open to finding “an appropriate, comprehensive resolution of the overall opioid litigation.”