Judge Cites Opioid ‘Menace,’ Awards Oklahoma $572M In Landmark Case

By Jackie Fortier, StateImpact Oklahoma and Brian Mann, North Country Public Radio: For More Info, Go Here…

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state’s opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers and must pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson’s marketing practices for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of 6,000 people in the state.

It’s the first ruling to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the worst drug epidemics in American history.

Judge Thad Balkman delivered his decision from the bench after presiding over an eight-week civil trial in the college town of Norman, Okla.

“Defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma,” Balkman said in the ruling.

Johnson & Johnson immediately released a statement saying that the company “plans to appeal the opioid judgment in Oklahoma.”

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.

Balkman, in the ruling, said the state made its case that Johnson & Johnson contributed to the state’s opioid crisis.

“The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans,” Balkman said. “The state met its burden,” proving the company acted improperly with its “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids.”

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