Johnson & Johnson Fined For Fuelling Oklahoma Opioid Crisis

27 August 2019, 10:59

Johnson & Johnson are being fined $572 million in a landmark ruling.
Johnson & Johnson are being fined $572 million in a landmark ruling. Picture: PA

It has been ruled that the company's actions have contributed to the 6, 000 opioid deaths in Oklahoma since 2000.

A US judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million (£468 million) for its contribution to Oklahoma's opioid addiction crisis.

The case was the first of thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid makers and distributors to go to trial.

Johnson & Johnson have said that they will be appealing the decision.

Lawyers for the state argued that Johnson & Johnson carried out an extensive marketing campaign that minimised the risks of the addictive painkillers that they produce.

The state's lawyers referred to the company as an opioid "kingpin". It was argued that their marketing strategy led to doctors overprescribing the drugs which contributed to a surge in overdoses in the state.

Judge Thad Balkman, said prosecutors had demonstrated that Johnson & Johnson contributed to a "public nuisance" and had acted deceptively in their advertising campaign for the drugs.

He stated, "those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans. The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans."

The company has denied any wrongdoing, and claimed that their painkillers, Duragesic and Mucynta, only make up a tiny percentage of opioids that are prescribed in Oklahoma and just 1% of the US market overall. They also said that all of their advertising is backed by scientific evidence.

In a statement, 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."

"This judgement is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states."

Sabrina Strong, the lawyer representing Johnson & Johnson, said, "we have sympathy for all who suffer from substance abuse, but Johnson & Johnson did not cause the opioid abuse crisis here in Oklahoma, or anywhere in this country.""

We do not believe that the facts or the law supports the decision today. We have many strong grounds for appeal, and we intend to pursue those vigorously."

Opioids are believe to have contributed to almost 400,000 overdose deaths in the US from 1999 to 2017.