After originally declining to participate in a nationwide opioid settlement, New Mexico agreed on Jan. 13 to a $44 million settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson to resolve claims over the company’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic in the state.
J&J will pay New Mexico in 2022 rather than over the course of several years. However, J&J, as part of the settlement, will not admit to any wrongdoing, according to U.S. News & World Report.
More than 3,300 lawsuits filed by states and municipalities against J&J and the nation’s three largest drug distributors—McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health—are still pending. The four companies have agreed to pay $26 billion to states and municipalities in order to resolve the sprawling opioid litigation.
Four U.S. states—Alabama, Oklahoma, Washington, West Virginia—have yet to join the settlement. Nevada and Georgia also recently reversed course and joined the settlement in January. The state of Washington still plans on taking the three drug distributors to trial, according to the Associated Press.
Hector Balderas, New Mexico Attorney General, initially refused to take part in the nationwide settlement. However, in December, Balderas announced that the state would participate in the $21 billion settlement with the three distributors. At the time Balderas reversed course to sign on with McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, New Mexico had not yet agreed to participate in the $5 billion national settlement with J&J.
"Opioids have destroyed families in New Mexico, and local communities and addiction professionals still need vital funding to save lives and fight this ongoing tragic epidemic," Balderas said in a statement, per US News & World Report.
According to a J&J press release, the $44 million settlement with New Mexico is “consistent with the terms of the previously announced nationwide opioid settlement agreement. The dollar amount to be received by the State is the prorated share it would have received under this agreement, which will be deducted from the all-in settlement amount. This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”
J&J maintains its “actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible.”
The company claims that three of its discontinued opioid drugs—DURAGESIC®, NUCYNTA® and NUCYNTA® ER—accounted for less than one percent of total opioid prescriptions in New Mexico since those drugs were introduced.