$290M Johnson & Johnson opioid crisis settlement coming to Texas

Texas Politics

HOUSTON (KXAN) — On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a $290 million settlement agreement for Texas with Johnson & Johnson related to opioid epidemic-related claims.

As part of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay into a Qualified Settlement Fund, which is Texas’ portion of settlement dollars. From there, 70% will go into the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund.

Created by the state legislature, the fund is overseen by a 14-member council. Six regional members are appointed by Health and Human Services based on recommendations from local officials. The rest are selected by the governor and other state leaders including the lieutenant governor and the House speaker.

Paxton said the $290 million is expected to be deposited and available by January 1, sooner than initial agreements indicated.

“I am pleased that all parties have reached final agreement on this monumental settlement. This is 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 this epidemic,” Paxton said Tuesday. “My office will continue to aggressively work to hold those accountable for causing this crisis. These funds will bring life-changing resources to those victimized by this tragic crisis.”

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said the settlement is not an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing, and said the company no longer sells prescription opioid medications in the United States.

“The company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible,” the statement read in part.

Texas is also expected to receive up to $1.2 billion from three opioid distributors. Altogether, Texas could receive up to $1.5 billion in settlement money. 

Erich Schneider, a licensed master social worker and therapist at Austin’s Sage Recovery & Wellness Center, said he would advise the abatement fund council to focus on three priorities: prevention, early intervention, and treatment.

Schneider also said re-training medical providers to use pain management techniques that do not involve opioids, and monitoring the fate of drugs that go out after prescription would also be money well-spent.

“Right now, around 40 to 70% of prescribed opioids remain unused; they’re sitting in your medicine cabinet,” he said. “And there’s a large number of tragic stories of lives changed by opioids that began with getting pills out of your medicine cabinet.”

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