Published: Thu, August 29, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Oklahoma opioid ruling could provide framework for DE lawsuit

Oklahoma opioid ruling could provide framework for DE lawsuit

Judge Cites Opioid 'Menace, ' Awards Oklahoma $572 Million in Landmark Case Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by an Oklahoma judge to pay $572 million in restitution for their role in the state's opioid crisis, according to Kaiser Health News.

Judge Thad Balkman of the Cleveland County District Court in Oklahoma, US, found Johnson & Johnson had engaged in "false, misleading, and risky marketing campaigns" that "caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths, and neonatal abstinence syndrome".

"The defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma", Judge Thad Balkman said in a statement.

Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a public nuisance by launching an aggressive and allegedly misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction.

Oklahoma previously reached settlements with two other opioid drugmakers: a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and an $85 million settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world's leading providers of generic drugs.

A ruling from a judge in Oklahoma that marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson contributed to the opioid crisis could signal what's ahead for other drug companies facing lawsuits across the country.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's suit alleged that Johnson & Johnson, through its pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen, helped ignite a public health crisis that has killed thousands of state residents. He said the company - rather than Oklahoma taxpayers - should pick up the tab for the epidemic. Oklahoma was able to use a public nuisance law against J&J, which allows the judge to determine if there was a significant public nuisance to a large population.

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FORTIER: The judge said that the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson ran a false and unsafe sales campaign that caused addiction and death in the state.

Oklahoma, which was the first state to bring a case to trial, is one of many states suing opioid drug makers.

"I fear that if the state's decision on how to spend the Purdue settlement money is any guide, they're going to fumble the ball and more people are going to die as a result of it", said Ryan Hampton, who also battled an opioid addiction and wrote a book on the crisis titled "American Fix - Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis and How to End It". A judge has ordered the company to pay $572 million in connection with the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.

Judge Balkman heard the case without a jury during nearly eight weeks of trial testimony that ended in mid-July. Overall, we don't expect any change to our fair value estimate or moat rating for the company based on the ruling, and we continue to model in $1 billion in total opioid litigation costs for J&J.

The case has drawn comparison to the $206 billion the tobacco industry agreed to pay 46 states in 1998 for the consequences of decades of nicotine addiction. SC Johnson says it is a completely separate company that has no connection with Johnson & Johnson.

The company said in a statement that since 2008, its painkillers had accounted for less than 1% of the U.S. market, including generics.

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