On Monday, a judge in Oklahoma ruled against the Johnson & Johnson corporation in the case on opioids. The company has been ordered to pay $ 572 million due to their part in fueling the widespread addiction.
“The state met its burden that the defendants Janssen and Johnson & Johnson’s misleading marketing and promotion of opioids created a nuisance as defined by [the law],” said District Judge Thad Balkman. “Specifically, defendants caused an opioid crisis that’s evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
Balkman also referenced to the epidemic as a “menace” and “imminent danger”. These harsh words being aimed at a usually innocent company who makes band-aids and no tears baby shampoo.
Johnson & Johnson plan on pursuing an appeal to the ruling. They reportedly trained their representatives to downplay the risks of addiction when offering the drugs to their “key customers”, doctors. They were very keen on selling to doctors who prescribe a lot of opioids to their patients.
The $572 million that Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay is the amount estimated to cover the costs of reversing the epidemic for a one-year period. Reversing the entire epidemic is estimated to take at least 20 years.
“The state did not present sufficient evidence of the amount of time and costs necessary, beyond year one, to abate the opioid crisis,” the ruling claims.
Johnson & Johnson insist that the state of Oklahoma, “failed to present evidence that the company’s products or actions caused a public nuisance in Oklahoma.”
The also called the case against them “flawed.”
“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” Johnson & Johnson general counsel Michael Ullmann said in a statement. “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 400,000 people have died due to the opioid crisis from 1999-2017.
Johnson & Johnson and other companies who produce opioids believe they are not responsible for any wrongdoing. Many scholars are comparing these cases to the tobacco cases of the 90’s.
During arguments, Oklahoma Attorney General, Mike Hunter alluded to the fact that companies like Johnson & Johnson rushed production of a “magic pill” for profit while ignoring knowledge of the dangers of opioids. Testimony from the families of victims of the epidemic were heard.
They “embarked on a cynical, deceitful, multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign to establish opioid analgesics as the magic drug,” Hunter said. “Money may not be the root of all evil, but money can make people and businesses do bad things. Very bad things.”
In court, Johnson & Johnson claimed the marketing of their products was done appropriately and with responsibility. They also provided testimony from doctors and employees backing their defense.
“Judge Balkman has affirmed our position that Johnson & Johnson maliciously and diabolically created the opioid epidemic in our state,” Hunter said.