Pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572 million in damages to the state of Oklahoma after losing a lawsuit. The State claimed that the company had participated in a sales campaign that was described at trial as “false and dangerous” and that it was responsible for the opioid epidemic currently plaguing the US.
Lengthy Decision Blames Company for Drug Epidemic
Judge Thad Balkman wrote a 42-page decision in which he determined that the company was responsible for creating what has been described as “the worst drug epidemic in US history.” The judge said that the company was aggressive in its marketing practices, pushing false claims that narcotic pain medications weren’t addictive to physicians. It also used its own resources to provide funding for organizations and research that would actively promote narcotic use.
Johnson & Johnson to Pay for Treatment, Overdose Prevention Costs
The $572 million isn’t the entire amount of the judgment that Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay. In his decision, Judge Balkman made a provision for the $572 million as an initial payment. Other payments from the company to the state of Oklahoma will need to be negotiated to pay for the following:
• Treatment costs
• Overdose prevention
• Cost of combatting the Oklahoma epidemic in future years
The State has requested $17 billion in compensation from Johnson & Johnson. The company has announced it will appeal the judgment.
Opioid Manufacturers Face Hundreds of Lawsuits
This decision is a disappointment to other drug manufacturers, as well as medication distributors and pharmacies that have been named in over 2,000 legal actions by districts nationwide. They will find it much more difficult to argue that the blame for the opioid crisis, which has been responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the past 20 years, solely on the physicians who prescribed the medications or the people who took them (whether they had a prescription or not).
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter also filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the company which produced OxyContin. This opioid pain medication is considered to have had a major role in starting the opioid epidemic in the 1990s. Purdue and Oklahoma reached a settlement for $270 million without having to go to trial; however, the company has to defend itself against several hundred other legal actions.