Pharmaceutical Company Ordered to Pay $572 Million for Fueling the Opioid Epidemic

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An Oklahoma judge has found massive pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies liable for fueling the opioid crisis in the state. The ruling is passed down with the order to pay the state in excess of $572 million, far less than the $17 billion the state was initially seeking. 

This marks the first time a judge has made a ruling in an opioid-related case such as this one. There are more than 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local, and tribal governments alleging pharmaceutical companies and unscrupulous physicians have contributed to the growing opioid crisis in America. 

With more than 48 states filing suit against these companies, they argue the drugs were improperly marketed to consumers, lacking in proper warnings that showed they were extremely addictive and harmful in the long-term. They also say these companies did not take action in stopping suspicious orders of the drug from shipping to pharmacies and so-called “pain pill mills” across the country. 

Recent studies have shown that using powerful opioids to treat chronic pain can lead to addiction, with the dosage increasing as patients develop a tolerance for the medication. Due to a major influx of the drug throughout the last two decades, they have become increasingly easier to be obtained by recreational users and addicts. 

The state of Oklahoma has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic. Since 2000, there have been 6,000 overdose deaths in Oklahoma. Opioids were so prevalent that in 2012, there were 127 prescriptions per 100 persons. This number has since declined to around 88.1 prescriptions per 100 persons, but the number is still very high compared to other states. 

Oklahoma has already won several cases against prolific pharmaceutical companies. The state reached an agreement with a $270 million deal with Purdue Pharma, the makers of the widely used OxyContin. They also closed an $85 million settlement with Teva, and now, they can add Johnson & Johnson to the count. 

As the opioid crisis worsens, areas across the country are gearing up to fight back against the devastation it has caused. Last month, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unveiled a comprehensive update on the region’s plan to combat the opioid epidemic. Complete with strategies to prevent opioid misuse, it will also include community outreach and engagement, education, resource development, promotion of alternative pain management, and appropriate medication disposal. 

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