This post was last updated on August 28th, 2019 at 05:18 am
Decades old medical device company, Johnson & Johnson was ruled to have created an opioid crisis through misleading and promotion of its drugs by an Oklahoma court. First ever of its kind, the judgement penalized the multi-billion-dollar company to pay $572 million for causing addiction and death in the country.
From the bench Monday afternoon, Judge Thad Balkman of Cleveland County District Court said, “The defendant caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome, in Oklahoma.”
He also said that the state, which sued Johnson & Johnson, proved that the pharmaceutical giant’s “misleading marketing and promotion” of opioids “compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.”
The penalty charged against the firm was far short of the $17 billion demanded by the state’s attorney general, who argued that the company should pay a steep price for mending the crisis it induced. However, judge Balkman stated that he was bound to cap the amount, as the “additional programs and funding” required are determinations that are yet to be made.
Johnson & Johnson was held liable for driving an opioid epidemic in America, which has killed nearly 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017. Since 2000, about 6,000 deaths have been reported in Oklahoma from opioid overdoses.
“Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsibility for the opioid epidemic in our state,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said at a press conference after the ruling. “Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addiction caused by their activities.”
In its argument, the state highlighted that Johnson & Johnson supplied 60 per cent of the opiate ingredients, which is used by drug companies for opioids like oxycodone, while marketing its products as safe and effective.
The pharmaceutical firm, on the other hand, argued that it did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and stated that it would appeal the ruling.
General counsel for Johnson & Johnson, Michael Ullmann said, “Neither the facts nor the law support this outcome.”
He added, “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need.”
As it has come first time ever, the ruling comes as a threat for drug makers, distributors and retailers that currently face 2,000 lawsuits alleging them of causing the opioid crisis. Those cases were collected and transferred to an Ohio federal judge, with arguments beginning in October.
With rising opioid crisis and deaths in the country, the judgement came as a significant move and hope for better future of the citizens.