Johnson Johnson agreed on Friday to pay $44 million to resolve claims that it fueled the opioid epidemic in New Mexico, a state that originally opted not to participate in a nationwide settlement resolving thousands of similar cases.
The drugmaker said the $44 million was consistent with the terms of a proposal for J&J and drug distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc to pay up to $26 billion to deal with the cases nationally.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas initially declined to take part in the settlements but last month said the state would participate in the $21 billion deal. He did not join J&J's $5 billion deal at the time.
Under Friday's accord, J&J agreed to pay New Mexico its share of the nationwide settlement in 2022, rather than over several years, if all of its cities and counties signed on by May 31.
In a statement, Balderas said that opioids have destroyed families in New Mexico, and local communities and addiction professionals still need vital funding to fight this ongoing tragic epidemic.
More than 3,300 lawsuits, largely by state and local governments, are pending, aiming to hold those and other companies responsible for the opioid abuse crisis that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths.
How much of the $26 billion the companies will have to pay and how much litigation they will have to deal with will depend on state and local government participation.
Settlement supporters extended the deadline on Jan. 26 for cities and counties in states that backed the proposal to opt-in to the deals, citing the potential for more states to join.
Nevada and Georgia agreed to participate this month. Six states have not settled with any of the four companies.