In the storm of litigation from states to the big drug companies, another victory has been won for the states. This time New Hampshire is getting a piece of the pie, that being a $40.5 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson. What’s of note in this announcement, which came on September 1st of this year, is that this settlement was reached three days before the case was taken to trial.
Here’s some brief background on this case: NH filed a lawsuit against J&J and a subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, back in 2018. As is common with most of these cases against the big drug companies, the charges included the aggressive and misleading marketing of J&J, who has continually downplayed the dangers of opioids and their involvement in the crisis. The lawsuit further alleged that J&J targeted vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, and wrongfully claimed that their opioids were rarely addictive when treating chronic pain.
The Governor of NH, Chris Sununu, said “this resolution provides a positive step forward in ensuring these devastating business practices are not repeated, and that resources are allocated to help stem the tide of the opioid crisis.”
Now, after all these cases, of course J&J as well as Janssen continued their same song and dance of denial, claiming that they had been truthful in advertising. Mechanically and on cue J&J responded, “this settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing and marks continued progress in resolving opioid-related claims and litigation by states, cities, counties, and other subdivisions in the United States.” The settlement may not be an admission of liability, but it certainly reeks of a self-conscious wrongdoing. I suppose a multi-billion dollar company would rather toss away millions of dollars on the outset, rather than spend more money on legal fees, and worse yet, have their wrongdoing exposed during a trial.
According to ABC news, “New Hampshire was one of a few states that did not join a national settlement with the company in February because its opioid crisis was ‘particularly severe’ and because the state had already devoted ‘significant litigation resources’ in preparation for trial.” This came from a news release from the attorney general’s office. NH ended up receiving more money from the settlement than it would have if it joined the national settlement, which would have granted NH about $26.5 million paid over nine years.
J&J will be making a single payment to the state of NH. After payment of litigation costs and fees the state will receive $31.5 million. ABC news reports that these funds will be used for “opioid abatement programs, including a dedicated state trust fund that would award grants to help deal with opioid use treatment and recovery.” It’s continued that “some money also directly goes to counties, cities and towns that filed lawsuits.”
A reckoning is still headed the way of major drug companies. Let’s take step back to appreciate and enjoy the progress that has been made. There is now a considerable amount of funding going toward ending the opioid crisis. Even if we can’t take back the lives lost, we can at least begin to rebuild what remains and move onward.