Oklahoma judge finds J&J fueled opioid crisis

Oklahoma judge finds J&J fueled opioid crisis

Oklahoma judge finds J&J fueled opioid crisis

An Oklahoma judge on Monday ruled against corporate giant Johnson & Johnson, ordering the company to pay more than half a billion dollars for its role in triggering and perpetuating the state's opioid crisis.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman will issue his decision at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) in his courtroom in the college town of Norman. In his ruling, Balkman said the opioid crisis has "ravaged" the state of Oklahoma.

The Johnson & Johnson has denied wrongdoing in the case.

According to the New York Times, the state argued that through its contracts with poppy farms in Tasmania, Johnson & Johnson supplied approximately 60-percent of the opiate ingredients that pharmaceutical companies used in producing opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, which wrought unparalleled destruction across the state that will reverberate for generations. The Oklahoma case is at the forefront of a wave of lawsuits against drug companies over the opioid crisis. A federal trial is slated for this fall in which almost 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands have been rolled into one, accusing opioid makers of causing the epidemic.

Before the six-week trial started in late May, Oklahoma reached a $270-million settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85-million deal with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. The court record was sealed in 2015 as part of a $24 million settlement between Purdue and Kentucky.

"This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states", it added.

"Throughout trial our team repeatedly laid waste to the state's case, which it built on misstatements and distortions", attorney John Sparks, who is representing Johnson & Johnson and their subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., said after closing statements, according to The Associated Press. "I lost my firstborn son to the opioid epidemic". However, J&J absolves itself of any misconduct and presented research that said its painkillers, Duragesic and Nucynta, comprised a fraction of opioids prescribed in the state. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 70,000 deaths in 2017 and an estimated 68% of those deaths involved an opioid.

With the trial now over, eyes are turning from Oklahoma to other states seeking justice for the opioid crises ravaging their communities.

Opioids were involved in nearly 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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