To resolve claims brought by two Ohio counties over costs associated with the opioid crisis, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $20 million to avoid trial over their role in creating and facilitating the epidemic.
Johnson & Johnson has reportedly agreed to pay $10 million to Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio, just days before a bellwether trial was set to begin.
In addition, the company has also reportedly agreed to pay $5.4 million to non-profit groups handling opioid addiction programs in those counties, and will pay $5 million of the counties’ legal fees and expenses in bringing the claims.
The Johnson & Johnson settlement came just days after Mallinckrodt Plc made a similar $24 million deal with the two counties. Two other drug makers, Allergan and Endo, have already settled claims with the counties.
The parties settled the lawsuits just days after Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, announced it was declaring bankruptcy due to opioid crisis litigation costs.
These agreements also came three weeks before a number of manufacturers are set to go to trial over charges brought by the two counties, who say the actions of the pharmaceutical companies caused the massive, deadly drug opioid crisis in their communities. The settlements mean Johnson & Johnson and others who have reached agreements with the county will not be part of the upcoming trial, which is expected to begin October 21.
While the outcome of this trial will not be binding on thousands of similar lawsuits filed by various governmental entities who incurred damages stemming from the sale of opioids, it is considered a “bellwether” to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to similar testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
Companies who are still involved in the claims brought by the two Ohio counties include Amerisource Bergan, Cardinal Health, Teva Pharmaceuticals, McKesson Corp. and Henry Schein Inc.
The opioid crisis claims more and more lives each year, due to accidental and intentional overdoses associated with the powerful and addictive pain medications. Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car crash.
A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published late last year indicated opioids accounted for nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths.
Federal health officials say more than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died from OxyContin overdoses since it was first introduced in 1999.
There are currently more than 2,000 opioid epidemic lawsuits filed in the federal court system, each seeking damages from various manufacturers and distributors of the powerful narcotic medications over addiction and abuse problems that have plagued the nation in the recent years.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the claims, the U.S. JPML established centralized proceedings for the opioid cases last year, consolidating the claims before U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.