New York Attorney General Letitia James. Source: Reuters
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  • Johnson & Johnson will pay US$263 million (A$347 million) to resolve claims that it fuelled an opioid epidemic in New York
  • It removes the company from a trial due to begin on Tuesday that also involves other opioid manufacturers and distributors
  • Johnson & Johnson did not admit any liability, but will be forced to stop selling the painkillers across the US
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 500,000 people died in the US from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019

Multinational giant Johnson & Johnson said on Saturday it will pay US$263 million (A$347 million) to resolve claims that it fuelled an opioid epidemic in New York state and two of its largest counties.

The payments remove the drugmaker from a jury trial scheduled to begin on Tuesday, where a number of other major opioid manufacturers and distributors are also defendants.

Despite settling with New York state, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties, Johnson & Johnson did not admit any liability, but will be forced to stop selling the painkillers across the US.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said the opioid epidemic had “wreaked havoc” across the nation.

“Johnson & Johnson helped fuel this fire,” Ms James said.

She said her focus remained on “getting funds into communities devastated by opioids as quickly as possible.”

Johnson & Johnson said the settlements were consistent with its previous commitment to pay US$5 billion (A$6.6 billion) to settle various opioid claims by cities, counties, states and tribal communities in the US.

It’s part of a broader proposal which includes major drug distributors, such as AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp, to pay a combined US$26 billion (A$34.3 billion) to end thousands of opioid lawsuits.

Johnson & Johnson has also been appealing a ruling by an Oklahoma judge in 2019 that the New-Jersey-based company pay US$465 million (A$613.39 million) for its deceptive marketing of opioids.

Tuesday’s trial is one of several scheduled to take place this year, with others currently underway in California and West Virginia.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 500,000 people died in the US from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019.

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