Last month, on June 26th, Johnson & Johnson agreed to a $230 million settlement with New York state. This settlement bans the company from promoting opioids and prohibits it from lobbying about such products at the federal, state, or local levels. The company has also confirmed it will stop the distribution of opioids within the United States. J&J stopped marketing opioids in 2015, while in 2020 the business was finally discontinued. The settlement also stipulates that J&J resolve opioids related claims and allocate payments over nine years.
Attorney General of New York, Letitia James, released a statement after the trial saying, “Johnson & Johnson helped fuel this fire, but today they’re committing to leaving the opioid business — not only in New York, but across the entire country, Opioids will no longer be manufactured or sold in the United States by J&J. We are also delivering up to $230 million to fund opioid prevention, treatment, and education efforts across New York state.” She continued to say that “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.”
Johnson & Johnson also released a statement following the trial saying the settlement “”is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by the company,” and that “the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.” J&J continues to argue that “the company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible.”
A trial is now underway against several other drug companies including Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, and Allergan Finance LLC. The trial is expected to take 6-8 weeks.
With these trials taking place, it is important to note that the opioid epidemic is still looming large. Deaths from drug overdoses rose to more than 93,000 last year, showing that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on efforts to subdue the opioid crisis. The death toll rose more than 21,000 (nearly 30%) from 2019, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics. These staggering numbers are a reminder of the importance of the trials going on, and reparations needed for those surviving and those lost. There is still hope, and the settlement reached with J&J, as well as other settlements reached with Purdue in the past year, are glimpses of accountability and justice. The end of the current trial and bring in even higher numbers of settlements, and inevitably help continue the fight against the crisis.