Johnson & Johnson will stop selling opioids in the US as part of $230 million settlement in New York

The Johnson & Johnson logo
Johnson & Johnson AP

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will no longer sell opioids in the US as part of a $230 million settlement with the state of New York.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the settlement was reached just days before the case was set to go to trial Tuesday on Long Island.

The settlement does not impact the numerous other lawsuits the company faces in other states across the US from state and local governments who allege Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical companies helped create the opioid epidemic.

More than half a million people died from opioid use in the two decades between 1999 and 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities across New York state and the rest of the nation, leaving millions still addicted to dangerous and deadly opioids,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday in a statement.

“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,” she added.

Settlement talks between drug companies and state and local governments have ramped up in recent weeks as trials have begun in California and West Virginia, sources told the WSJ.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said the settlement Saturday with the state of New York was not an admission of liability of wrongdoing.

“The Company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible,” it said.

The trial in New York was scheduled to begin in March 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WSJ. Following New York’s settlement with Johnson & Johnson, the case will proceed next week with three other opioid makers, multiple drug distributors, and the pharmacy Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., according to the report.

It will be the first opioid case to be heard in front of a jury, the WSJ noted.

The first opioid trial in the US was in Oklahoma in 2019 resulted in a $465 million loss against Johnson & Johson, the WSJ reported. The company is appealing that ruling, the report said.

“Our trial against the remaining defendants will commence this coming week, where we will lay bare the callous and deadly pattern of misconduct these companies perpetrated as they dealt dangerous and addictive opioids across our state,” James said Saturday. “As always, our goal remains getting funds to those devastated by opioids as quickly as possible.”

The New York trial is expected to last for four months, according to the WSJ.