The United States drugmaker, Johnson & Johnson have been fined an astounding €515 million for fuelling Oklahoma’s opioid addiction crisis, according to a ruling from a judge in the same state.
Once the judgement was made, the company immediately stated its intentions to appeal the decision.
This case was the first to go to trial out of the thousands of lawsuits that were filed against opioid makers and distributors, who have faced immense criticism since the 1990s, when the crisis first started.
Earlier on this year, the state of Oklahoma settled with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for €243 million as well as Teva Pharmaceutical for €76.4 million. As a result of this, Johnson & Johnson remained the only defendant of the case.
The judge that was taking care of the case, Thad Balkman of Cleveland County District Court in Norman, Oklahoma, said that prosecutors had put forward considerable information that shows how Johnson & Johnson contributed to a “public nuisance” in its extremely deceptive promotion of highly addictive prescription painkillers.
He stated in his ruling that “Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans. The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans.”
He also added that the payment of the fine would be used to take care and treat opioid addicts that have suffered as a result of this crisis.
The case’s outcome is being closely monitored by plaintiffs with around 2,000 opioid lawsuits set to go to trial in Ohio over the course of October, unless a settlement between the parties can be reached.
During the period from 1999 all the way to 2017, Opioids were the cause of almost 400,000 overdose deaths according to data released by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2000, around 6,000 people in Oklahoma in particular, died from opioid overdoses, according to the data that was provided to the state’s lawyers.
Lawyers for the state argued that Johnson & Johnson carried out a years-long marketing campaign aimed at minimising the addictive painkillers’ risks, whilst also promoting their benefits, practically brainwashing the people.
The lawyers also added that the company is one of the main pillars of opioids, arguing that its marketing efforts only created an even greater public nuisance, with doctors often over-prescribing the drugs. These over-prescriptions is what eventually led to the large increase in overdose deaths in Oklahoma.
On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson immediately denied these claims, arguing that its marketing had significant scientific support, whilst its painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta, only made up a slight portion of opioids that were prescribed in Oklahoma.
The company also stated that the case opened against them by the state was based on a “radical” interpretation of the state’s public nuisance law.
Shockingly, plenty of investors were expecting a larger fine than what was handed to them, and as a result, the company’s share price rose immensely after the ruling.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General Mike Hunter brought about the case, saying after the ruling that “Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addictions caused by their actions.”
Apart from the pharmaceutical world, Johnson & Johnson is also the owner of popular baby cosmetics and skin care brand, Johnson’s Baby, whilst also being part of the oral health care market and several other markets.