Oklahoma Opioid Crisis: Johnson and Johnson Hit Hard by a New Ruling

Opioid Crisis

The American multinational company Johnson & Johnson, which was held responsible for the opioid crisis in Oklahoma in the previous trials, was recently hit by a US state judge’s landmark ruling.

Out of the innumerable lawsuits filed against the opioid makers and distributors, the case against Johnson & Johnson company became the very first to go under trials. Throughout the seven-week non-jury trials, the Oklahoma lawyers called the company an opioid “kingpin”.

The claims that the company carried out years-long marketing campaign, minimizing the addictive painkillers’ risks while promoting its benefits, strongly affected the company’s stance. The lawyers added that Johnson and Johnson’s marketing efforts were a complete nuisance and the doctors over-prescribed the drugs to their patients. The entire scenario led to an increment in overdose deaths in Oklahoma.

In the same context Oklahoma County District Judge Thad Balkman, during his ruling said, “The company’s actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans. The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans.”

Despite huge allegations, Johnson & Johnson denied all the wrongdoings saying that all of the blames were an interpretation of the state’s public nuisance law, which have been rejected by judges in other states. The company also added that its painkillers accounted for less than one percent of the US market since 2008.

Meanwhile, Duragesic and Nucynta are two other medications that constitute a fraction of opioid risks in the Oklahoma state and overdoses of which could lead to consumers’ deaths. Earlier this year, Oklahoma settled with Oxy Contin maker Purdue Pharma for $270m and Teva Pharmaceutical for $85m, leaving Johnson & Johnson as the lone defendant.

As the recent ruling suggested, the drug maker Johnson & Johnson would now have to pay $572m (£468m) for its efficient role that contributed to Oklahoma’s opioid addiction crisis though the company has been appealing for help against the judgment. It has been suggested that the payment would be used for the care and treatment of opioid addicts.

Against the judgment, the company said, “The decision in this case is flawed. The State failed to present evidence that the company’s products or actions caused a public nuisance in Oklahoma.”

A research has concluded that the Opioid drugs that are used for primary pain relief, including anesthesia have led to almost 400,000 deaths in the last 18 years across the country, while more than 5,000 people have died from opioid overdoses in Oklahoma since 2000.

As Johnson & Johnson has entirely rejected the decision, calling the facts and laws supporting the cause to be largely unfair, there are many others who believe that settled amount of $572m is a much lower fine in comparison to the number of deaths amid the growing opioid crisis.


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