By Bethany Blankley

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and its U.S.-based Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies agreed to a $297 million opioid settlement with the state of Texas as part of a $26 billion agreement reached with the Texas Attorney General’s office earlier this year – the Global Prescription Opioid Litigation Settlement Agreement.

According to the agreement, Johnson & Johnson will pay $291,841,754.89 into a Qualified Settlement Fund, representing Texas’s allocation of the Global Abatement Settlement.

The settlement resolves several cases including Janssen’s portion of the State of Texas v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and lawsuits filed by Bexar and Dallas counties, whose trials were scheduled for early next year. J&J is now removed from the pending Texas state and subdivision litigation.

In 2018, Bexar County sued dozens of drug manufacturers and distributors in response to a regional opioid crisis. Now, J&J will pay the county $4.1 million to settle the lawsuit and another $8.5 million will go to the county as a result of Paxton’s settlement.

“Bexar County has the second trial setting in the Texas opioid litigation efforts, and sadly has the highest rate of babies being born addicted to opioids in the State of Texas,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in a statement. “The ability to put the money from this settlement to work for families in the county and to address opioid use disorder across the state right away is an important part of why I support General Paxton and Texas political subdivisions in moving this historic settlement forward.”

Dallas County is slated to receive $2.3 million as a result of the settlement, which Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said was “the best of its kind in the nation.”

“Dallas County, like so many communities throughout Texas, has been hard hit by an opioid epidemic that was caused and fueled by drug company misconduct,” he said. “One of those companies, Johnson & Johnson, has been held to financially account for its role in this crisis. Dallas County, its trial counsel, and the Office of the Attorney General have worked together to achieve this historic result that benefits tens of millions of Texans by promptly putting monies for opioid harm reduction into communities that sorely need it.”

Harris County, one of many local entities that joined the lawsuit, is slated to receive $3.9 million. Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee said he expected the settlement “will be the first of several settlements against the companies” that the county sued.

Texas is also slated to receive an additional $1.2 billion from three distributors, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. This money will largely go toward opioid abatement efforts.

J&J said in a press release that the settlement wasn’t “an admission of any liability or wrongdoing,” adding that the prescription opioid medications in question are no longer available in the U.S.

J&J’s “actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible,” it states. “DURAGESIC®, NUCYNTA® and NUCYNTA® ER accounted for less than one percent of total opioid prescriptions in Texas and the U.S. since launch.”

One part of the settlement is that J&J is prohibited from being in the opioid business for 10 years.

Paxton described the settlement as “monumental,” serving as “the next step to bring much-needed funding for Texans who have fallen victim to the irresponsible and deceptive marketing practices from opioid manufacturers that spurred” the opioid epidemic.

Citing Centers for Disease Control data, Paxton said that opioid deaths had increased by 30% last year.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids were involved in nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths in Texas in 2018.

Paxton previously announced an agreement with groups that had been litigating against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Texas is also an active participant in the bankruptcies of Perdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt, which are expected to emerge from bankruptcy in the near future and provide millions of additional dollars for opioid abatement.

The settlement comes after Texas reached a $38.4 million settlement with McKinsey in February. McKinsey provided consulting services to opioid companies, including selling marketing plans, programs, and advisement to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for more than 15 years.

In 2018, Texas sued Purdue Pharma alleging a violation of state laws against deceptive trade practices and misrepresenting the risk of addiction to its painkillers, including OxyContin, to patients and doctors.

Texas’s portion of the settlement money will be available Jan. 1, 2022.

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