American multinational pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson, will need to fork over $572 million for purported contribution to an opioid addiction epidemic in Oklahoma. Straight after the ruling, the company said that they would appeal.
This is the first case that went to trial of the several thousand lawsuits against opioid manufacturers. Previously in the year, the state settled with Purdue Pharma $270 million and Teva Pharmceutical for $85 million. Johnson & Johnson was left as the sole defendant.
According to Judge Thad Balkman, prosecutors exhibited that Johnson & Johnson played a part in the deceitful marketing of extremely addictive prescription painkillers.
“Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans. The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans,” Balkman expressed in his ruling.
The Johnson & Johnson payment would be put towards the treatment of opioid addicts.
How the case plays out is under tight observation by plaintiffs in roughly 2,000 opioid lawsuits, which are set to go to trial in a couple months if a settlement cannot be made.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nearly 400,000 deaths from overdosing between 1999 and 2017 are linked to opioids. State lawyers say that in the last 19 years, approximately 6,000 individuals in Oklahoma have died due to opioid overdoses.
Oklahoma lawyers deemed Johnson & Johnson an opioid “kingpin” and claimed that the company’s marketing tactics resulted in a public nuisance as doctors prescribed too many of the drugs. The pharmaceutical firm aggressively denied this behaviour, insisting that its marketing efforts possessed scientific support. They said that their painkillers, Duragesic and Nucynta, constituted only a small part of the opioids prescribed in Oklahoma.
“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. This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states,” said Johnson & Johnson.
The case was brought by Mike Hunter, Oklahoma’s Attorney General. “Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addictions caused by their actions,” Hunter stated after the ruling.