Vaccine Maker Johnson & Johnson Settles Huge Lawsuit Over Role in Opioid Crisis

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson on Friday agreed to a $26 billion settlement to thousands of claims by local and state governments of the alleged role that it and several others played in the U.S. opioid crisis.

Distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health Inc. joined in on the settlement, agreeing to pay $21 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson said it would pay $5 billion over nine years.

“Billions of dollars are now going to flow to treatment, recovery, education, and abating this public health crisis,” Paul Geller, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the Reuters news agency on Friday. “Because of the money, there will be people alive next year who otherwise would have died,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein told the outlet.

The deal aims to settle about 3,000 lawsuits that were filed by the state and local governments who had sought to hold the companies responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic that has left likely hundreds of thousands of people dead in recent decades.

Johnson & Johnson, which makes commonly used vaccines, also agreed to not resume selling prescription opioid drugs.

The companies said they are not admitting wrongdoing and are continuing to defend themselves against claims that they helped cause the opioid crisis that was brought by entities that are not involved in the settlements.

In a joint statement, the distributors called the implementation of the settlement “a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States.”

All four companies continue to face claims in several other states, including Alabama, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia.

In a separate deal that also is included in the $26 billion, the four companies reached a $590 million settlement with the nation’s federally recognized Native American tribes. About $2 billion is being set aside for fees and expenses for the lawyers who have spent years working on the case.

About 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website. In recent years, the drug responsible for the most overdose deaths is fentanyl, an opioid. A report issued by the Congressional Research Service last year found that “China has been a major source of U.S.-bound fentanyl and, more recently, precursors and production equipment.”

Other pharmaceutical manufacturers like Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. have also faced lawsuits for their alleged roles in the opioid crisis.

The Epoch Times has contacted Johnson & Johnson for comment.