June Leffler Published

W.Va. Took On J&J Alone And Got $99 Million Settlement

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The drugmaker Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has settled for $99 million with the state of West Virginia for its alleged role in the opioid crisis.

“It’s far higher than what anyone ever expected West Virginia to get,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

The deal came two weeks into a bench trial naming Janssen and two other drugmakers, Teva and Allergan, as defendants.

A fourth pain pill manufacturer, Endo, was named in the case but settled before the trial began.

Johnson & Johnson said it would settle for billions of dollars to end lawsuits across the nation. But West Virginia did not sign on to that deal. Instead the state with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths said it would take the drug maker on alone. Morrisey said that’s why the state will receive twice as much as it would have from the national settlement.

“That’s because of all the work we’re doing out of this office to argue that settlements should be based on severity not based on population.”

Counties and cities in West Virginia have 45 days to approve the deal. Morrisey’s office put forth a formula earlier this year to decide how opioid settlement funds would be distributed. It says a quarter would go to municipalities and the rest would go to a tax exempt nonprofit organization created by the state to distribute the money. The governor and municipalities would appoint the nonprofit’s board members.

Morrisey said the settlement is a win in part because it would send money to combat the crisis sooner rather than later.

“You reach an agreement because there’s obviously going to be risk for both sides in a trial,” Morrisey said. “We can save lives this year.”

Huntington and Cabell County took three drug distributors to trial about a year ago and a verdict has not yet been issued.

The current opioid trial in Kanawha County will continue for up to six more weeks. Further settlements could be reached before the end of the trial if the state, defendants and judges agree to it.

“We’re only going to settle if there’s a deal on the table that is absolutely in the best interest of West Virginia,” Morrisey said.