Washington State Gets Around $150 Million Settlement From Johnson & Johnson Over Opioid Crisis


Wednesday, the attorney general of Washington state revealed a $149.5 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson, a drug company. This comes more than four years after Washington sued the company for its part in the opioid problem.

“They knew it was bad.” Lawyer General Bob Ferguson told reporters Wednesday, “They did it anyway.”

The attorney general’s news came at a time when the number of opioid overdose deaths more than doubled from 2019 to 2022. In 2022, there were 2,048 deaths, which is the most current number from the Washington State Department of Health.

The deal says that state and local governments will have to spend $123.3 million to deal with the opioid problem. This money will go toward things like treatment for drug abuse, making it easier for people to get drugs that can reverse an overdose and services that help pregnant women who are using drugs. The rest of the money would be used to pay for the court case.

“Policies will have to deal with the harm,” the attorney general said, “or families and individuals will have to deal with the real tragedy of addiction in a very different way.”

A judge still needs to sign off on the payment deal. The attorney general’s office said that if the deal is accepted, it would send more than $20 million more to help with the opioid problem than if the state had joined a national settlement with Johnson & Johnson in 2021.

Governments across the country have been given more than $50 billion by drug companies, wholesalers, pharmacy chains, and advisers since the 2000s to settle claims that they helped cause the opioid problem.

Most of the money is supposed to be used to fight the nation’s drug and suicide problem, as agreed upon.

From 1999 to 2021, more than a million people died in the U.S. from drug accidents. Most of those deaths were caused by opioids. At first, the problem was mostly about prescription drugs, which became more common in the 1990s, and then heroin. The number of deaths has hit an all-time high in the last ten years. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which are found in a lot of street drugs, have been the main killers.

In 2020, the Democratic attorney general of Washington state attacked Johnson & Johnson, saying that the company helped the drug business make more prescription opioids available. He also said that the company left its mark on Washington’s drug problem by lying to doctors and the public about how well opioids treat chronic pain and how dangerous they are for addiction.

The office of the attorney general said that the company was the biggest in the country in 2015 when it came to suppliers of the active medicinal ingredients that go into opioid drugs.

Johnson & Johnson said in a written statement on Monday that its opioids Duragesic, Nucynta, and its fentanyl patch made up less than 1% of opioid orders in the state and the U.S. The company also said that it hasn’t sold any opioid prescription drugs in the country in years.

“The Company’s actions regarding the advertising and marketing of important prescription opioid drugs were appropriate and responsible,” the statement said.

The money will be given out by the end of this fiscal year, so the Legislature can set aside the money while the process is still going on. The attorney general’s office says that half of the money will go to a state account and the other half will go to a local government account.

Democratic Sen. June Robinson said on Wednesday that her kids have lost friends to drugs and that she has also known parents who have lost kids in the same way.

Because the cases have been going on since then, she said, “they can’t bring back the lives that we lost.” “But they are giving our communities and state resources that we can use to help people get better and, hopefully, stop addiction and crises like the one we’re seeing now from happening again.”

The deal comes about two years after the three biggest drug producers in the country agreed to give the state $518 million, most of which would be used to fight the addiction crisis.

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