On Monday, Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to the state of Oklahoma for their role in the state’s opioid crisis.
What We Know:
- The drug company was sued by the state after intentionally misinforming doctors of the risks of addiction their medications posed.
- The Oklahoma State Department of Health states on its website that “Prescription opioids are the most common class of drugs involved in overdose deaths in Oklahoma. More overdose deaths involve prescription opioids than all illicit drugs combined.”
- The opioid crisis is a national issue. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose. This is a serious problem that many communities around the country are facing.
- Oklahoma was initially seeking $17.5 billion from the company, but the judge considered the steep cost of funding Oklahoma’s opioid recovery plan and $572 million will only fund the program for one year.
- Several other states have mounted lawsuits against drug companies, but Oklahoma’s is the first to go to trial. Oklahoma has sued two other drug companies, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, securing $270 million and $85 million settlements respectively.
- 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.” He disapproved of the ruling stating, “Neither the facts nor the law support this outcome.”
- The company is planning to appeal the decision.
This landmark decision has major implications for the future of the pharmaceutical industry.