J&J to contribute up to $5 billion to potential U.S. opioid settlement

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for Johnson & Johnson is displayed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company’s listing at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it will contribute up to $1 billion more to a potential settlement of lawsuits alleging it and other companies fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic, bringing the total amount it would pay to $5 billion.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based drugmaker said the additional money represented an increase to a proposed $4 billion settlement framework it negotiated with a group of state attorneys general that was announced last year.

That October 2019 proposal also called for the drug distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen to pay a combined $18 billion, but the framework met resistance from some states and local governments.

Negotiations have been ongoing since then, and the dollar amounts have been shifting. J&J in a statement said the additional $1 billion it would pay reflected continued negotiations and said additional terms are being finalized.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the opioid litigation and representatives for several state attorneys general did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

More than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed nationally largely by states, counties and municipalities seeking to hold drug companies responsible for the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic.

The lawsuits generally accuse drugmakers including J&J of deceptively marketing opioids and distributors of ignoring red flags indicating the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses.

The companies including J&J deny wrongdoing. J&J is separately appealing a $465 million judgment the state of Oklahoma won against it in the first case to go to trial in the litigation.

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