Feb 25, 2022 - Economy

Companies finalize record $26 billion opioid settlement

A woman looks over a lawn in front of a hospital with purple flags acknowledging opioid addiction/overdose deaths

2,104 purple flags in Newton, Mass., in October 2021 to acknowledge the lives lost to opioid addiction/overdose in Massachusetts in 2020. Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson and three other drug companies on Friday announced settlements over their alleged involvement in stoking the nation’s opioid crisis, sending $26 billion in aid to state and local governments, Nathan writes.

Why it matters: Nearly 841,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the U.S. since 1999 — and in recent years, opioids have been involved in more than two-thirds of those deaths.

  • Critics say that pharmaceutical companies like J&J used aggressive marketing to popularize pain-killing opioids, downplaying their addictive qualities.

Details: The latest settlements — the largest to date stemming from the opioid crisis, according to the AP — were made by Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Most of the funding will be dedicated to combatting the crisis.

Of note: J&J, which will pay $5 billion over nine years, is taking a variety of steps to contain the liabilities it’s accumulated over alleged wrongdoing over the last few decades.

  • The company on Friday also won approval to move forward with its plan to place a newly created subsidiary into bankruptcy court to resolve accusations that its talc-containing baby powder caused cancer.
  • Consumer watchdogs had accused the company of abusing the legal system by placing its talc liabilities in bankruptcy court despite being financially healthy as a corporation.

Yes, but: J&J maintains that it’s done nothing wrong with opioids or talc.

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