Posted by 27 August 2019
An Oklahoma judge yesterday issued a first-in-the-nation ruling, holding that the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is responsible for the opioid crisis in that state.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had sued the company, claiming that it had made a “public nuisance” by selling numerous pills in the state and pressuring physicians to prescribe them. He said that led to addiction and public health problems that the company should pay for. The judge agreed with this argument, ordering Johnson & Johnson’s parent company to pay $572 million to the state.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict. The company says that it followed all state and federal laws governing pharmaceuticals, which are a heavily regulated product. They note that very few overdose deaths were from the pills they made, and that their pills were only used by a small number of Oklahomans.
The role that pharmaceutical companies have played in the rising number of opioid addicts and overdoses is hotly debated. Elected officials around the country have joined with trial attorneys to sue the companies, looking for huge settlements based on the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.
Other states and local governments have filed similar suits against pharmaceutical companies. The Oklahoma verdict is the first one in the nation to find that a drug company bears the blame for the opioid crisis.
Do you support state lawsuits against drug companies that allege these companies fueled the opioid epidemic?