Johnson & Johnson adds $1B to opioid lawsuits settlement pool, bringing total to $5B

Wooden gavel over small pile of multi-colored pills on dark background.
Johnson & Johnson is adding an additional $1 billion in the hope of settling all opioid lawsuits it's facing. (Getty Images/AVNphotolab)

Johnson & Johnson appears to be nearing a final deal that could settle more than 2,000 lawsuits brought by states and cities that claim the company contributed to the opioid crisis by overselling the benefits of its painkillers.

The U.S. drugmaker will pour an additional $1 billion into a potential settlement that would resolve those opioid lawsuits, on top of the $4 billion the company set aside a year ago.

While the exact terms of the deal are being finalized, “[t]his additional amount results from continued negotiations and is intended to maximize participation in the settlement,” the company said Tuesday, while committing to fight whatever suits that don’t get resolved by the agreement.

J&J’s original commitment of $4 billion was part of a gigantic $48 billion deal, including cash and contribution of anti-addiction treatments, that the company and Teva, along with three drug distributors, proposed to wrap up all opioid suits.

It came weeks after J&J lost the first case to go to trial out of more than 2,000; an Oklahoma judge at that time found J&J distributed “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” for opioids that led to “exponentially increasing rates of addiction” and overdose deaths. Although the final award was later slashed to $465 million from the original $572 million and J&J’s still appealing, the Oklahoma ruling still laid out the potential outcomes for the thousands more to come.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson faces insurance fraud charges in New York over opioid marketing

Back then, industry watchers, while optimistic that the deal could represent an end to the legal headache and financial uncertainty, questioned whether all the plaintiffs could sign on.

Now, the additional $1 billion comes on the heels of New York state, one of the most populous states in the U.S., filing its own suit against J&J, looking to recover $2 billion over the Big Pharma’s alleged role in the opioid crisis.

The state’s not suing J&J directly for aggressive marketing of its opioid products—Nucynta and Duragesic—but for “fraudulent insurance acts” by misrepresenting the drugs’ risk.

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