On August 26th, the judge hearing the opioid case brought by Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson awarded the state $572 million. It is the first ruling to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for the opioid crisis.

About the Ruling

doctor holding pills and medicine bottleWhile the state of Oklahoma was seeking $17 billion, Judge Thad Balkman ruled that “the state did not present sufficient evidence of the amount of time and costs necessary, beyond year one, to abate the opioid crisis”.

In the case, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter claimed Johnson & Johnson marketed opioids to doctors, while downplaying the risks of addictive painkillers. State prosecutors claim these actions helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic and led to more than 6,000 deaths over nearly two decades.

Related Court Cases

In March, Purdue Pharma, the privately held maker of OxyContin, reached a $270 million settlement with the Oklahoma attorney general’s office. The state also settled with Teva Pharmaceutical for $85 million, just days before it went to trial against the Israeli opioid manufacturer in Cleveland County.

Opioid pain medications, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, are at the center of nearly 2,000 pending opioid cases before a federal judge in Ohio; the Oklahoma case was seen as a litmus test.

Impact of the Decision

In his decision, Judge Balkman wrote, “The Defendants, acting in concert with others, embarked on a major campaign in which they used branded and unbranded marketing to disseminate the messages that pain was under-treated and there was a low risk of abuse and a low danger of prescribing opioids”.

He also added, “False, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns have caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction and overdose deaths”. Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the decision.

Balkman’s landmark decision is the first to hold a drugmaker culpable for the fallout of liberal opioid dispensing that began in the late 1990s, sparking a nationwide epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths. With 40 states lined up to pursue similar claims against the pharmaceutical industry, Balkman’s ruling could influence the strategies used by both plaintiffs and defendants.
At Trantolo & Trantolo, we’ve always put people before profits. Pharmaceutical companies chose to promote a drug which years of scientific research has shown to be dangerous and we believe these actions are unacceptable. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous drug, contact our medication error attorneys today.