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Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay over $570 million in landmark opioid trial

A US judged ordered the healthcare giant to pay $572 million for its role in the opioid crisis.

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572 million in damages.
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572 million in damages.
Image: Shutterstock/Sundry Photography

AN OKLAHOMA JUDGE today ordered US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in fostering the state’s opioid addiction crisis.

In a landmark trial, Judge Thad Balkman said prosecutors had demonstrated that the company contributed to a “public nuisance” in its deceptive promotion of highly addictive prescription painkillers.

“Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans,” he said.

In the first civil trial of a drugmaker over an epidemic that has caused hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths, Judge Thad Balkman said prosecutors had demonstrated that Johnson & Johnson contributed to a “public nuisance” in its deceptive promotion of highly addictive prescription painkillers.

“Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans,” he said.

According to the ruling, which also cites the company’s former Janssen pharmaceuticals division, the cash will go towards care for a generation of addicts, families and communities affected by the crisis.

“The defendants Janssen and Johnson & Johnson’s misleading marketing and promotion of opioids created a nuisance,” Balkman said.

“Specifically, defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma.”

Johnson & Johnson was the first pharmaceutical company tried over the US opioid crisis, which fueled over 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone.

Prosecutors had sought $17 billion in damages.

Johnson & Johnson argued that the law was being inappropriately applied and that its products had a very small role in the addiction epidemic in Oklahoma and nationally.

Balkman said Johnson & Johnson had promoted its drugs telling doctors and patients that pain was not being treated enough and that “there was a low risk of abuse and a low danger” in the drugs themselves.

“The defendants used the phrase ‘pseudoaddiction’ to convince doctors that patients who exhibited signs of addiction… were not actually suffering from addiction, but from the undertreatment of pain,” he said in his decision.

© – AFP 2019

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