Johnson & Johnson was ordered by Oklahoma’s Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman to pay $572 million in damages in relation to the opioid crisis.
Johnson & Johnson is one of many pharmaceutical companies that have been identified for their responsibility in promoting opioid addiction and contributing to overdoses and deaths throughout the country. Thousands of civil cases — against Johnson & Johnson and other businesses like Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals — focus on the drug manufacturers’ role in supplying highly-addictive opioids and urging doctors to prescribe them to patients. Oklahoma was the site of a successful settlement against Purdue Pharma, in which the OxyContin producer paid $270 million. Teva Pharmaceuticals was ordered to pay $85 million, also by an Oklahoma court.
There are dozens of other states waiting for their chance to face the pharmaceutical companies in trial. Oklahoma is joined by West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, and several other states in the fight against drug manufacturers. For those other states, Oklahoma is a study in taking on the corporations, and doing it successfully. There is also a federal trial in development in which “nearly 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands have been rolled into one, accusing opioid makers of causing the epidemic,” (CNN).
Opioids are prescription painkillers which exist in the opiate family of drugs, such as heroin. Opioid prescriptions, originally, were meant to be reserved for highly painful conditions and procedure recovery. The legal action is partially based on claims that the pharmaceutical companies encouraged doctors to prescribe opioids, often at unnecessarily high volumes. A figure that demonstrates the proliferation of opioids is presented in the case of Mingo County, WV: The area “received shipments of 38,269,630 prescription pain pills from 2006 to 2012. That’s 210 pills per year for every man, woman and child in the county,” (WV Metro News).
The pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson is a subsidiary known as Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The corporation denied their liability in court, claiming that Janssen did not promote opioids, and that their actions did not contribute to the state crisis. The state of Oklahoma refuted these defenses by explaining the proliferation of opioids that impacted the area for decades, and declared Johnson & Johnson a “public nuisance” for contributing to the crisis.
The victory in Oklahoma signals a push toward action on the opioid crisis that victims and their families have fought for over decades. As the cases throughout the country evolve, this verdict symbolizes that justice is possible.
The Brown & Barron, LLC legal team represents those who have been affected by dangerous drugs and medical devices. Contact us 24/7 via phone at (410) 698-1717, or use our form to schedule a free consultation.