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Janssen settles for $99M in opioid trial

The state of West Virginia has agreed to a $99 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical removing the company from the trial that entered its third week in a Charleston courtroom Monday.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the settlement shortly after attorneys gathered at the Kanawha County Courthouse Monday before Mercer County Circuit Judge Derek Swope, who is hearing the case as a bench trial. Morrisey later detailed the settlement at a news conference.

“West Virginia and her political subdivisions will receive $99 million in a lump sum payment. This will be for the state, the counties and the cities and this will be within 45-days of approval by all of the political subdivisions,” Morrisey said.

The state sued Janssen, Teva and Allergan Finance LLC for allegedly making marketing misrepresentations and omissions that substantially contributed to the opioid epidemic and that the companies failed to monitor for and guard against diversion of their drugs.

The trial continues against the other two defendants.

Morrisey said the $99 million is a lot more than the state would have gotten from Johnson & Johnson in a national settlement.

“We are doubling the amount,” Morrisey said. “That’s significant. We were looking at $48 million (based on some of the original numbers).”

A Monday morning news release from Johnson & Johnson said it was admitting no wrongdoing and it stands by the way it marketed and promoted its opioid medications, calling it “appropriate and responsible.”

The company said its drugs, Uragesic, Nucynta and Nucynta ER, “accounted for less than one percent of total opioid prescriptions in West Virginia and the U.S. since launch. The company no longer sells prescription opioid medications in the United States as part of its ongoing efforts to focus on transformational innovation and serving unmet patient needs.”

Morrisey is urging the state’s cities and counties to sign-off on the West Virginia First MOU, the approved distribution plan for the settlement money. There is an approaching deadline, Morrisey said Monday.

“I would urge any county and city that has yet to approve the West Virginia First MOU to do so quickly because if folks don’t sign on to the MOU they get no money. We need folks to sign in. This has to be a team approach,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey said state residents can expect to see more money coming to the state from those in the opioid supply chain than originally forecasted in national settlements.

“I’m going to make a prediction here — at the end of all of this process West Virginia will be number one or number two, very, very high up, in the amount it receives per capita in all of these opioid settlements. That’s because of all of the work we’re doing in this office to argue that settlement amounts should be based on severity and not population,” Morrisey said.

According to Johnson & Johnson, the settlement “directly support(s) local community efforts to seek meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in West Virginia. This settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing and marks continued progress in resolving opioid-related claims and litigation by states, cities, counties and other subdivisions in the United States. The company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”

During an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Morrisey was asked if the settlement could provide momentum to settle with Teva and Allergan.

“We’re always open if defendants want to put something that we should chew on, on the table but we’re in a very, very, very strong position against Teva and Allergan and we’re proceeding with the trial without delay,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey announced a settlement with opioid manufacturer Endo, the maker of Opana, $26 million in a lump sum payment late last month.

The state filed the lawsuits in 2019.