(The Center Square) – New Hampshire will get $40.5 million from a settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson over its alleged role in fueling the nationwide opioid crisis.

Attorney General John Formella said the settlement with the drug maker resolved claims in a 2018 lawsuit filed by the state and local governments alleging that the company aggressively marketed their opioids to prescribers and patients in New Hampshire and misrepresented that the highly addictive drugs were safe.

The state will divert $31.5 million of the settlement funds to help with opioid addiction prevention and treatment, with the remainder of the funds going to court fees in costs, according to Formella's office. More than $4.7 million of that will be provided directly to counties and municipal governments that filed lawsuits against the drugmaker.

"New Hampshire has been devastated by the opioid crisis, and we continue to deal with the impacts of that crisis today," Formella said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson, in its statement, denied any wrongdoing, claiming it didn't violate any state laws and didn't use deceptive marketing to sell its opioid products in the state.

"This settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing and marks continued progress in resolving opioid-related claims and litigation by states, cities, counties, and other subdivisions in the United States," the company said. "The company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve."

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Gov. Chris Sununu praised the settlement saying it "provides a positive step forward in ensuring these devastating business practices are not repeated, and that resources are allocated to help stem the tide of the opioid crisis."

Like most states, New Hampshire has struggled with a wave of opioid addiction that public health officials say has been exacerbated by the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, there were 417 confirmed opioid-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. More than 3,000 New Hampshire residents have died of opioid overdoses since 2014, according to the agency.

To cover the costs of treatment and prevention efforts, the state has amassed a sizable amount of money through multi-state settlements with opioid makers and distributors. The funds are being deposited in a state-run trust fund.

Earlier this month, Formella's office announced the state was slated to get $450 million from a settlement with Ireland-based drugmaker Endo to resolve allegations that the company increased opioid sales using deceptive marketing practices.

In December, the state was awarded $4.7 million through the U.S. Department of Justice program that will be used to hire police officers to respond to overdose calls while connecting addicts and families with substance abuse treatment.

The state will be receiving an estimated $46 million under a revised $6 billion settlement between states and local governments and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family.

Another $115 million will be coming to the state over the next 18 years under a recent settlement with McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen over their alleged role in distributing prescription opioids across the state.

Formella said the settlements "hold opioid companies accountable for their role in creating this epidemic" and said the resolution of the J&J lawsuit "represents another successful push to get more resources for New Hampshire to align with the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on our state."

This story was produced by The Center Square, which is not affiliated with Granite Memo.

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