Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and its pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen, have offered two Ohio counties $20.4 million in a bid to remove itself from an upcoming federal trial. The settlements with Cuyahoga and Summit counties include a combined $10 million fine, a $5 million reimbursement for costs used to prepare for litigation, and $5.4 million in charitable contributions to non-profit organizations focused on opioid-related programs. The settlement includes no admission of liability by Johnson & Johnson.
Lawyers for the two counties said the settlement provides urgently needed funds for programs needed to tackle the opioid epidemic. Johnson & Johnson said, “The settlement allows the Company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis.”
Johnson & Johnson is obviously trying to avoid a repeat of what happened in Oklahoma in August. In that case, which was very similar to the Ohio case, an Oklahoma judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson and ordered the company to pay $572 million to the state. Johnson & Johnson has said that it will appeal the ruling. Two other opioid drugmakers, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, reached settlements with Oklahoma.
The Ohio trial, scheduled for Oct. 21 in the U.S. Northern District of Ohio, accuses drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and practitioners of misrepresenting the risks of long-term opioid use and flooding Ohio with pills over 20 years. The case combines charges from nearly 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands. Companies still included in the case include AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. Those companies have denied the allegations against them.
Johnson & Johnson is the fourth drugmaker to settle with the Ohio counties ahead of the trial. Endo International PLC has agreed to pay the counties $10 million, while Allergan PLC agreed to pay $5 million. Mallinckrodt PLC reached a $30 million settlement at the beginning of the week.