On Monday, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay over $572 million in settlements for pushing doctors to prescribe opioids, while undermining the addictive risks. Oklahoma attorney general Mike Hunter accused Johnson and Johnson and their pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen, for creating a “public nuisance” through their sales pushes—starting back to the 1990’s—that have led to the death of innocent citizens. J&J has, of course, denied any wrongdoing. John Sparks, the company’s attorney, claims the state misinterpreted public nuisance laws.
Thad Balkman, District Judge of Cleveland County, said “The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma, it must be abated immediately…for this reason, I’m entering an abatement plan that consists of costs totaling $572,102,028 to immediately remediate the nuisance.” Balkman also condemned J&J for their misleading “marketing and promotion of opioids.” The Vice President of J&J, Mike Ullman, plans to appeal the court’s decision, claiming that J&J did not create the crisis in Oklahoma. “This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states,” Ullman said. “The unprecedented award for the State’s ‘abatement plan’ has sweeping ramifications for many industries and bears no relation to the Company’s medicines or conduct.” Balkman’s full ruling included notice that the company failed to train or teach sales representatives about the harmful effects of addiction, or the history of opioid abuse. Thus, leading to the decision that J&J had been purposefully deceitful in order to promote sales.
Mike Hunter said that his team proved that J&J “built its billion-dollar brand out of greed and on the backs of pain and suffering of innocent people…the company used pseudoscience and misleading information that downplayed the risks of opioids leading to the worst man-made public nuisance this state and our county has ever seen: the opioid crisis.”
The next day after this was reported, Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family (the makers of OxyContin) offered to settle over 2,000 reported lawsuits totaling to $10-$12 billion. Purdue and the Sackler’s have been alleged to not only being the root of the opioid crisis, but for also sustaining the crisis. Purdue Pharma’s earning total more than $35 billion from OxyContin. To read more about the history of Purdue and the Sackler’s read an article I wrote earlier this year.
Big company’s seem to finally be getting what the deserve, with these two companies paying out for their crimes, hopefully progress in the right direction will be made in ending the opioid crisis.