Johnson and Johnson agreed to stop the sale of opioids in the United States as part of a $230 million settlement with New York State to resolve claims that helped fuel the painkiller epidemic.
The company, which made the opioids including a fentanyl patch and tablets, has denied any wrongdoing but will stop manufacturing and distributing the opioids in the United States.
The settlement is part of a wave of more than 3,000 lawsuits across the United States aimed at forcing opioid producers and distributors to take financial responsibility for an epidemic that officials blame on their aggressive marketing of addictive drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that opioid overdoses have killed 500,000 Americans over two decades. Many of those deaths involved painkillers made by drug makers and prescribed by doctors.
With the settlement, J&J will avoid going to trial next week, when New York state is set to face other opioid makers and distributors in court.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated countless communities across New York State and the rest of the country, leaving millions addicted to dangerous and deadly opioids,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.
“Johnson & Johnson helped fuel this fire, but today they are committed to leaving the opioid trade – not just in New York, but across the country,” she said.
James added that the drug company’s extensive marketing of opioids was driven in part by sales employee quotas.
J&J said its “work in marketing and promoting prescription pain medications was appropriate and responsible.”
In March 2019, James filed a sprawling lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of opioids. In addition to J&J, the complaint named Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family that owns it, Mallinckrodt, Endo, and Teva among others. It also targeted distributors including McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen.
Cases against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler and Mallinckrodt families are now being moved to US Bankruptcy Court. The trial of all the other defendants is scheduled to begin next week.
In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered J&J to pay $465 million after it was found responsible in a 2019 trial for public inconvenience caused by the state’s opioid crisis.