BioPharma, Legal

Report: Okla. judge acknowledges miscalculating part of $572M charge for J&J in opioids case

In other news, the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country – AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health – were reportedly in talks to settle opioid litigation for $18 billion.

A judge in Oklahoma has conceded that a miscalculation led him to impose inflated charges on one of the largest drugmakers in the world in a case involving opioids.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Cleveland County, Oklahoma, District Judge Thad Balkman acknowledged the error, whereby a charge of about $107,000 was written as $107 million, resulting in an award of $572 million that the drugmaker, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, would have to pay to the state.

Balkman ordered J&J to pay the $572 million in August after finding that the drugmaker had created a “public nuisance” in Oklahoma by helping to fuel the opioid crisis. J&J appealed the ruling last month, stating that Balkman had made a computational error with respect to the $107 million charge.

In its Tuesday report, the Associated Press reported that J&J’s attorneys are seeking additional reductions in the amount. The $107,000 was meant to be used to develop a program for treating babies born with opioid addiction.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the three largest drug distributors in the country – McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health – were in talks to settle opioid litigation for $18 billion. Citing people familiar with the discussions, the newspaper reported that the amount would be paid over the course of 18 years, while J&J itself was also in discussions to contribute additional money.

J&J, the aformentioned distributors and several other companies are facing more than 2,000 lawsuits from state and local governments alleging that their marketing of opioid painkillers contributed to the nationwide epidemic of addition to the drugs. The cases are part of a multi-district litigation, or MDL, which is set to go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio this month.

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One of the highest-profile companies in the MDL, Purdue Pharma, filed for bankruptcy last month as part of a more than $10 billion settlement framework, though several state attorneys general criticized the move. Other companies involved in the MDL include other opioid manufacturers, as well as retail pharmacy chains like Walgreens.

Photo: MedCity News