J&J to pay $40.5 million to settle New Hampshire opioid lawsuit

By Jonathan Stempel

Sept 1 (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) has agreed to pay $40.5 million to settle New Hampshire’s claims over the company’s role in the opioid epidemic, averting a trial that had been scheduled to begin next week.

Thursday’s settlement resolves a lawsuit brought in 2018 accusing Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit.

New Hampshire accused them of aggressively marketing opioids to doctors and patients, misrepresenting that the drugs were rarely addictive when used to treat chronic pain, and targeting vulnerable groups like the elderly.

“This resolution provides a positive step forward in ensuring these devastating business practices are not repeated,” Governor Chris Sununu said in a statement.

New Hampshire will apply $31.5 million toward opioid abatement, after paying legal fees, and Johnson & Johnson will be banned from selling or promoting opioids there.

A trial had been scheduled for Sept. 7 in Merrimack County Superior Court.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson did not admit wrongdoing, and called its marketing and promotion of prescription opioids “appropriate and responsible.”

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based drugmaker also said it will defend against other pending opioid litigation.

New Hampshire was one of a few states that did not join Johnson & Johnson’s portion of February’s $26 billion nationwide opioid settlement with the company and the three largest U.S. drug distributors, hoping to recover more by suing on its own.

Johnson & Johnson expects to be reimbursed $1.5 million from that settlement because New Hampshire did not participate.

More than 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses in the past two decades nationwide, including a record 75,673 in the year ending April 2021, U.S. government data show.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jason Neely and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters