Judge Cites Opioid ‘Menace,’ Awards Oklahoma $572M In Landmark Case

Jackie Fortier, StateAffect Oklahoma and Brian Mann, NPR

An Oklahoma decide has dominated that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state’s opioid disaster by deceptively advertising painkillers and should pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson’s advertising practices for fueling the disaster that has claimed the lives of 6,000 individuals within the state.

It’s the primary ruling to carry a pharmaceutical firm chargeable for one of many worst drug epidemics in American historical past.

Judge Thad Balkman delivered his choice from the bench after presiding over an eight-week civil trial within the school city of Norman, Okla.

“Defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma,” Balkman stated within the ruling.

Johnson & Johnson instantly launched an announcement saying that the corporate “plans to appeal the opioid judgment in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s swimsuit alleged that Johnson & Johnson, via its pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen, helped ignite a public well being disaster that has killed 1000’s of state residents.

Balkman, within the ruling, stated the state made its case that Johnson & Johnson contributed to the state’s opioid disaster.

“The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans,” Balkman stated. “The state met its burden,” proving the corporate acted improperly with its “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids.”

The case is being carefully watched by plaintiffs in different opioid lawsuits, notably the roughly 2,000 circumstances pending earlier than a federal decide in Ohio.

Initially, Hunter’s lawsuit included Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. In March, Purdue Pharma settled with the state for $270 million, about $200 million of which can fund an habit analysis and therapy heart at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. Soon afterward, Hunter dropped all but one of the civil claims, together with fraud, in opposition to the 2 remaining defendants.

Just two days earlier than the trial started, a kind of two defendants, Teva Pharmaceuticals, primarily based in Israel, introduced an $85 million settlement with the state.

Both firms deny any wrongdoing.

Johnson & Johnson marketed the opioid painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta. Lawyers for the corporate say that its merchandise had been extremely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, amongst different companies, and that the state didn’t present any proof displaying that the corporate’s gross sales practices helped gas the disaster.

This story is a part of a reporting partnership that features NPR, StateAffect Oklahoma and different member stations. 

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