Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $99 million to remove itself from an ongoing opioid addiction trial with the state of West Virginia, the latest development in litigation that has gripped the company for years.
April 4, West Virginia’s attorney general Patrick Morrisey urged a judge to hold the company, along with Teva Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie’s Allergan, responsible for causing a “tsunami” of opioid addiction in the state, Reuters reported. The state has accused the drug manufacturers of creating a “public nuisance” by deceiving prescribers about the risks of opioid painkillers and said their marketing efforts led to an increase in substance abuse and overdose deaths.
“This epidemic has impacted virtually all of West Virginia,” Morrisey said during opening statements, as quoted by Reuters. “Our lawsuit speaks for all West Virginians who have suffered due to the defendants’ unlawful, callous and destructive conduct.”
J&J stated that the $99 million settlement will directly support local community efforts to seek “meaningful progress” in addressing the opioid crisis in West Virginia. The company emphasized that its marketing and promotion of prescription opioid medications were “appropriate and responsible” and that its three opioid medications accounted for less than 1% of total opioid prescriptions in West Virginia and the U.S. since launch.
Echoing its previous statements regarding opioid addiction settlements, J&J said the settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing.
West Virginia is still pursing claims against Teva and AbbVie.
The settlement follows other state-specific opioid settlements by J&J. Last June, the company entered a $230 million settlement to end litigation in New York and agreed to permanently end its nationwide manufacturing and distribution of opioids. In October, it agreed to shell out $297 million to Texas.
In February, the company and three major drug distributers—AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson—finalized a whopping $26 billion settlement to resolve more than 3,000 lawsuits. The deal was put forth in July and finalized once enough states and governments signed on. West Virginia was one of the five states that did not sign onto the settlement at the time.
With the recent settlement, West Virginia now has the highest per capita allocation from J&J’s opioid settlement, Morrisey said.