To resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by states and municipalities nationwide, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $5 billion as part of a massive settlement over its role in the nationwide opioid abuse crisis.
The drug maker originally proposed a $4 billion opioid settlement in October 2019, to resolve claims brought by various levels of government that have incurred substantial damages dealing with abuse and addiction linked to the powerful pain medications. However, Johnson & Johnson indicated in a press release issued this week that it will add another $1 billion to the settlement fund.
“This additional amount results from continued negotiations and is intended to maximize participation in the settlement,” the company stated in the announcement. “The settlement will provide certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for families and communities in need.”
There are currently at least 3,000 opioid lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, which have been centralized with other similar claims before U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Johnson & Johnson noted in the statement that it still does not admit liability or wrongdoing, and says it will continue to defend against any opioid abuse cases not resolved by the final settlement agreement.
Opioid Abuse Crisis
In the United States, evidence now suggests that drug overdoses kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people died from drug overdoses. Even as abuse has seemingly decreased, opioid overdose deaths have increased.
In 2015, two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids, including Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl, which on its own is largely driving the number of opioid deaths.
Americans use more opioids than any other country in the world, with the number of prescriptions in the U.S. last year providing enough pills to medicate every American 24 hours a day for three weeks consecutively. Opioid overdoses kill more than 90 Americans every day, experts say, and the economic burden of opioid misuse costs the country $78.5 billion per year.