Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will pay $149.5 million to Washington state and local governments, settling a lawsuit regarding the company’s role in the national opioid epidemic. The Washington Attorney General’s Office announced the lump sum will be delivered this fiscal year following an agreement enacted via the King County Superior Court. The settlement dictates that $123.3 million must be allocated toward combating opioid misuse.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson disclosed that the deal came about after his office declined a smaller settlement offer. That settlement offer earmarked $98.9 million, payable over almost a decade. The New Jersey-based company must pay the entire $149.5 million settlement within three weeks of agreement validation by Washington’s local governments, likely to occur by May. Legal stipulations require that 125 local governments assent to the deal to guarantee the total settlement amount.
From the 1990s to at least 2016, Johnson & Johnson cultivated and processed poppy plants via its subsidiaries, fueling the production of opioids. The AG’s office stated that Johnson & Johnson’s aggressive opioid marketing consciously overemphasized their effectiveness in managing long-term pain and trivialized addiction risks. The powerful drugs were peddled for chronic pain conditions, including headaches, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.
Thus far, over $1.2 billion has been retrieved by the Washington Attorney General’s Office to tackle the opioid and fentanyl crisis through settlements with corporations like Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp. Further litigation is pending against several national pharmacy chains accused of amplifying the epidemic.