A historic lawsuit has just begun in Oklahoma, aiming for Johnson and Johnson. The manufacturer is a large company that sells not only pharmaceuticals but also household products such as baby powder.
Attorney General Mike Hunter says that Johnson and Johnson, the largest drug maker in the United States, helped fuel the state’s raging opioid crisis. The company is accused of using deceptive marketing and other underhanded tactics to increase their profits while ignoring a public health crisis of their own making.
Manufacturers and Distributors Face Lawsuits
The theme of the lawsuit is similar to the hundreds of lawsuits being filed across the US by states, cities, and counties.
Several codefendants had already settled with the state, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, who agreed to pay $85 million in a surprise move last Sunday, just 48 hours before the trial began. Oxycontin manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, settled for $270 million last March.
Johnson and Johnson is the only defendant that remains in the trial. The trial is a bench trial, led and decided by the judge.
What Does the Lawsuit Claim?
Oklahoma sued Teva Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma and Johnson and Johnson, alleging they “manipulated” residents into believing that long-term opioid use was safe. They say this eventually led to the opioid epidemic in the state.
The state claims J&Jallegedly deceived doctors and pharmacists about the use of opioids. They downplayed the risks and played up the benefits. They marketed and pushed sales. Because of this, doctors overprescribed drugs. The result led to the opioid crisis, which is now a public health crisis. Oklahoma has been hard-hit by the addiction epidemic, with 388 overdose deaths involving opioids in Oklahoma in 2017.
The Oklahoma trial is the first public trial to go to court over the opioid epidemic. Many other trials have gone to court and been sealed. Currently, about 2,000 U.S. lawsuits against drug makers, marketers, distributors, and even doctors have been filed in court.
Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, in May. A total of 46 states are currently suing the drug manufacturer