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J&J Settles Ahead of Multi-District Opioid Trial, Stock Up

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Shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) gained 1.6% after it announced a settlement agreement with Cuyahoga and Summit counties related to the multidistrict opioid litigation (“MDL”) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Shares of J&J have increased 2.3% this year so far against the industry’s decrease of 1.4%.

Per the terms of the deal, J&J will pay a total of $10 million to the counties as settlement payment. The company has also agreed to pay $5 million to the counties to reimburse their legal and other expenses related to the MDL. Moreover, J&J will donate additional $5.4 million to non-profit organizations in connection with opioid-related programs in Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

We note that J&J has been named in more than 2,000 lawsuits filed by various state and local governments in the United States related to the marketing of its opioid drugs including Duragesic, Nucynta and Nucynta ER. The lawsuits claim that these drugs caused opioid abuse or overdose. Such lawsuits have also been filed against other pharma companies in several states.

Per the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opioid overdose claimed lives of 47,000 Americans in 2017. Moreover, prescription opioid misuse alone creates a total economic burden of $78.5 billion every year. In the past two decades, 400,000 deaths occurred due to opioid-based drug abuse, per the estimate of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the settlement with Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio does not settle all pending litigation related to opioid-based drug abuse, J&J will avoid a risky trial scheduled later this month. This boosted investors’ confidence. This is the first settlement deal announced by the company related to any opioid litigation. In August, a district court ruled against J&J in a similar litigation with the state of Oklahoma. It has to pay a penalty of $527 million in the opioid-abuse case. However, J&J has decided to appeal against the ruling in the litigation.

Please note that settlement deals can be favorable for J&J as it will allow the company to avoid the resource demand and uncertainty of a trial. Meanwhile, J&J is open to negotiate a viable, broader resolution, which can lead to settlement of other outstanding opioid abuse cases. Other than J&J, companies like Allergan (AGN - Free Report) , Endo International (ENDP - Free Report) and Mallinckrodt plc (MNK - Free Report) have also settled with Cuyahoga and Summit counties to avoid the MDL.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of opioid analgesic, OxyContin, is planning to file for bankruptcy, which may include a settlement of $10-$12 billion to resolve all pending claims against its opioid-based drugs. Several other companies like Mylan and Teva, also indicted in several opioid lawsuits, have not announced any settlement deals yet and are set to face the MDL. Some of the companies may also follow the steps of Purdue Pharma and may file for bankruptcy to limit their liabilities.

Amid the uncertainty related to opioid litigation, J&J continues to progress well with its pipeline candidates and developing new drugs which in turn are driving the company’s topline. J&J filed a supplemental new drug application (sNDA) to the FDA for its antidepressant, Spravato (esketamine) nasal spray. The sNDA is seeking approval for label expansion of the drug as a treatment for adult patients with major depressive disorder who have active suicidal ideation with intent.

The sNDA was filed based on data from two phase III studies, ASPIRE I & II, which demonstrated that addition of Spravato to standard of care achieved remission in nearly 50% of patients following a treatment for 25 days.

Zacks Rank

J&J currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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