Johnson & Johnson announced it would pay a $10 million settlement -- as well as $5 million in legal fee reimbursements and a $5.4 million charitable contribution -- as part of an agreement for their role in the opioid crisis in two Ohio counties.
The settlement payment is not an admission of liability, the company said in a statement, but it will prevent them from having to go to trial.
"The settlement allows the Company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis," the company said in a statement. "The Company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need."
The $5.4 million charitable contribution from the company will go directly to non-profit organizations with opioid-related programs in the two Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit.
Ohio has especially suffered from the nationwide opioid crisis. The state had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S. in 2017, according to the most recent data from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse. That same year, there was a rate of 38.2 deaths per 100,000 people, more than twice the average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
Prescription opioids were the main underlying cause of overdose deaths in Ohio in 2011, according to the government agency, accounting for a total of 710 deaths that year. By 2017, prescription drugs accounted for 947 reported deaths.
Johnson & Johnson and its pharmaceutical company, Janssen, sold Duragesic (which contains fentanyl), as well as the opioid medications Nucynta and Nucynta ER.
The company maintains that it "responsibly marketed" those three medications which have "accounted for less than one percent of total opioid prescriptions in the United States."
They added that they have not marketed Duragesic in the U.S. in over 10 years and have sold the marketing rights for Nucynta in 2015.
The $10 million settlement in Ohio comes a little over a month after an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay in excess of $572 million as part of a lawsuit about the spread of the opioid epidemic in the state. Johnson & Johnson is appealing this order.