Landmark U.S. opioid ruling
August 27, 2019 - Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572 million for its part in fuelling the opioid epidemic in the state of Oklahoma. Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the decision.
The case, filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, is the first of some 2,500 lawsuits to go to trial against two dozen opioid manufacturers, drug distributors and retailers across the U.S. for their roles in the opioid crisis.
The plaintiffs allege that drug companies deceptively promoted the benefits of using opioids to treat chronic pain while downplaying addiction risks.
Oklahoma sued two other drug manufacturers, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, in addition to Johnson & Johnson. But they both settled with the state earlier this year -- Purdue for $270 million, Teva for $85 million -- without admitting wrongdoing.
In 1996, a new synthetic opioid, a form of oxycodone called OxyContin, came on the market to help relieve chronic pain. Its maker, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, claimed OxyContin’s slow-release formulation would make it less addictive than ordinary oxycodone.
Since 1999, more than 217,500 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Latest figures from the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimate that more than nine million Americans abused opioids in 2018 and that around 125 Americans die by opioid overdose every day.