Johnson & Johnson, one of the American laboratories accused of fueling the opioid crisis in the United States which has claimed more than half a million lives since 1999, has reached an agreement with New York State to end the lawsuits for $ 230 million and confirmed to have stopped the production and sale of these substances.
New York Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement in a statement on Saturday.
The group will spread the payment of $ 230 million over nine years, she said.
For its part, J&J announced in a separate statement that this agreement allowed it to avoid a trial which was to start on Monday and clarified that the group had made the decision “to stop all its prescription painkillers in the United States in 2020. “.
The settlement announced Saturday “does not constitute an admission of responsibility or wrongdoing on the part of the company”, also stressed the group, while other legal proceedings nationwide are underway, including a trial in California.
The lab could also pay an additional $ 30 million in the first year if the New York State executive chamber enacted new legislation creating an opioid settlement fund, US justice said.
“The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc in countless communities across New York State and across the country, leaving millions of people still addicted to opiates which are dangerous and deadly,” Ms. James said in the press release.
Stop the manufacture and sale of opiates
“Johnson & Johnson has helped fuel this crisis, but today it is committing to quit the opioid industry, not just in New York City, but across the country,” she added.
J&J insisted that the decision was taken before the agreement reached with the State.
The $ 230 million is to help fund prevention, treatment, and education about the dangers of these substances in New York State.
Johnson & Johnson, Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies and distributors are accused of encouraging doctors to over-prescribe these drugs – initially reserved for patients with particularly serious cancers – even when they knew they generated serious addictions.
Since 1999, this dependence has pushed many consumers of these drugs towards increasingly strong doses and towards illicit drugs such as heroin or fentanyl, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid and therefore at high risk of fatal overdose.
About 90,000 deaths from overdoses
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country’s leading public health agency, estimates that around 90,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, three-quarters of which still involved opiates.
The US Department of Health estimates that this crisis was responsible for four years of declining life expectancy in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The crisis had escalated to the point that Donald Trump had declared it in October 2017 a “national public health emergency”.
The CDC estimated in 2019 at some 78.5 billion dollars per year “the economic burden” of the crisis, including health costs, lost productivity and costs to the criminal justice system. A study published by the American Society of Actuaries had estimated the cost at $ 631 billion for the four years 2015-2018.
The crisis seemed to be easing before the pandemic, thanks to tighter prescription controls in particular, but the CDC recently indicated an acceleration in deaths from drug overdoses, including deaths from opiates.
As legal proceedings have multiplied in the country, many companies are trying to find agreements.
In February, the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey announced that it had agreed to pay $ 573 million to settle legal proceedings launched by some forty American states, which accused it of having contributed to the opioid crisis through its advice. to pharmaceutical groups, including Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.