Johnson & Johnson to pay $20.4 million to settle opioid lawsuits with two Ohio counties 

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it has agreed to settle opioid litigation with two Ohio counties in a deal that includes a combined $10-million payment to the two counties, plus $5 million for their legal expenses and another $5.4 million in contributions to opioid-related nonprofits. The agreement with the Cuyahoga and Summit counties "resolves all of the counties' claims with no admission of liability and removes the company from the federal trial scheduled to begin October 21," Johnson & Johnson stated. 

According to the drugmaker, it has "responsibly marketed" the opioid pain medications Duragesic (fentanyl), Nucynta (tapentadol) and Nucynta ER, which "have accounted for less than 1% of total opioid prescriptions in the US" since the products were launched. The company also noted that it sold its US marketing rights to Nucynta in 2015 and has not marketed Duragesic in the country since 2008. 

In August, Johnson & Johnson lost the first opioid case to go to trial, in Oklahoma, where a judge ordered the company to pay $572 million for contributing to the state's opioid crisis, although the attorney general in that case had been seeking damages of more than $17 billion (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Johnson & Johnson's loss in opioid case seen as win for industry). The company recently filed an appeal to overturn the ruling. 

Earlier this week, Mallinckrodt finalised a settlement deal with the Cuyahoga and Summit counties under which the drugmaker will pay $24 million in cash and provide $6 million in generic products, including addiction treatment products. 

Allergan and Endo have also reached settlement agreements with the two counties of $5 million and $10 million, respectively, regarding similar claims ahead of the upcoming trial. 

If Johnson & Johnson's settlement is approved, Teva would be the sole drugmaker to remain in the so-called multidistrict litigation, which is scheduled to take place in Cleveland, Ohio, before presiding Judge Dan Polster. The other defendants still in the case are distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Henry Schein and McKesson, as well as the pharmacy chain Walgreens. 

Meanwhile, Purdue Pharma announced last month that it filed for bankruptcy protection as part of a tentative deal to settle opioid lawsuits with multiple US states. Under that agreement, Purdue said it would provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, while the company's owners, the Sackler family, would contribute a minimum of $3 billion. 

Other makers of prescription opioid products are also reportedly looking to use Purdue's bankruptcy as a model to settle their own lawsuits. In a statement Tuesday, Endo said it "continues to explore various global settlement mechanisms," including "a construct that could potentially be implemented through Purdue's recent bankruptcy filing."

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