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J&J Held Found Guilty As A Drugmaker For The US Opioid Crisis

J&J Held Found Guilty As A Drugmaker For The US Opioid Crisis
In what is the first instance of a United States court holding a pharmaceutical company liable for a sudden increase in addiction and overdoses caused by drugs, a court in Oklahama found drug maker Johnson & Johnson responsible for the opioid epidemic in the region and has ordered the company to pay $572 million.
There are more than a thousand cases that have been filed against opioid manufacturers across the US and this hearing in Oklahoma was the first of those trials. In this case, following a eight-week trial, J&J was found responsible for the epidemic by judge Thad Balkman. Delivering the judgment, the judge noted that there was enough evidence to conclude that high rates of addiction and overdoses of opioids was a result of the misleading marketing and promotion of the drugs by the company. The judge further ordered the company to also pay for prevention, treatment, and recovery services resulting from the addiction.
"The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans," the judge said in court.
There were other companies too including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, who were originally also named in the Oklahoma lawsuit. While not admitting any responsibility for the opioid epidemic, Purdue agreed to make a payment of $270 million for research in addiction research and for legal fees in a settlement before the trial began.
People were tricked into believing by pharmaceutical companies that using prescription opioids were safe, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had said when he had filed the lawsuit in 2017. He further had alleged that the pharma companies were aware of the high and dangerous nature of addictiveness of the drugs – as was evident from the internal documents and other evidence, and but yet the companies continued to implement aggressive marketing strategies for sale of the drugs to people with the sole aim of making profits.  
“These companies have waged a fraudulent, decade-long marketing campaign to profit from the anguish of thousands of Oklahomans,” Hunter had said in a statement at the time. “These companies have made in excess of $10 billion a year, while our friends, family members, neighbors and loved ones have become addicts, gone to prison or died because of the opioid epidemic."
The lawsuit noted the Oklahoma was supplied with more than 326 million opioid pills in 2015 alone which was equal to 110 pills for each state individual of the state. The most fentanyl prescriptions per capita was also noted for the state.
There was no opioid epidemic in the mid-’90s, Balkman pointed out in his ruling. That situation was dramatically changed after the drug OxyContin of Purdue for patients with chronic pain was found to be successful in the state. This marketing success prompted the relaunch of its Duragesic fentanyl patch by Johnson & Johnson's Janssen pharmaceutical company.
It products noted in the lawsuit only made up a fraction of the prescription opioid market, Johnson & Johnson said in its defense. The opioid making companies have also argued that the epidemic was the result of illegal drug use – which also included the use of heroin, in addition to their drugs, for overdose related deaths.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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