Intended for healthcare professionals


US opioids: Johnson and Johnson and drug distributors offer $26bn to end thousands of lawsuits

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 22 July 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1867
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

The United States’ biggest ongoing lawsuit could be drawing to a close after an agreement under which Johnson & Johnson and three drug distribution companies offered to pay $26bn (£18.9bn; €22bn) to resolve thousands of outstanding claims from states, counties, cities, and health authorities that these companies fuelled the deadly US opioid epidemic.

The three distributors—Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson—which between them provide most of the drugs carried by US pharmacies, were accused of ignoring implausibly large orders and other clear signs that the opioids they sold were being misused despite having a legal obligation to report unusual buying patterns. They have collectively agreed to pay $21bn over 18 years.

Johnson & Johnson, which sold fentanyl patches and imported most of the raw opium used by other US manufacturers, was accused of misleading doctors and patients about these drugs’ potential for addiction. …

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