As the opioid abuse epidemic continues to ravage the United States from coast to coast, states have spent untold millions of dollars dealing with the aftermath. From abuse prevention and treatment programs to emergency services, homeless shelters and advocacy, hospitals, and law enforcement, the cities and towns in these states have spent significant sums cleaning up the mess the drug companies have left behind; sums that otherwise could have been used to make life better for the people living there. In the meantime, the drug companies have reaped billions in profits as they’ve caused this suffering and stretched municipal budgets to their limits.
The states have begun fighting back. Multiple trials are either being held or are waiting to be held as cities, towns, and entire states have sued pharmaceutical industry giants in an effort to get some of their resources restored. And, an Oklahoma judge has recently set a groundbreaking precedent.
Finding that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen pharmaceutical unit “engaged in false and misleading marketing of both their drugs and opioids,” Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled that “the law makes clear that such conduct is more than enough to serve as the act or omission necessary to establish the first element of Oklahoma’s public nuisance law.”
Oklahoma had asked the judge for over $17 billion to deal with the fallout of a crisis that killed more than 6,000 of its residents and called the opioid epidemic “the worst nuisance Oklahoma has ever known.” Judge Balkman, however, fell far short. While his finding itself may be seen as a victory, he awarded just $572 million in his ruling.
Calling Judge Balkman’s judgement “flawed,” Johnson & Johnson promised an immediate appeal.
Built on a foundational image of trust and wholesomeness, few companies have experienced the fall from grace Johnson & Johnson has brought upon itself in the past couple of years. But from its role in the opioid crisis to a criminal investigation into whether it covered up asbestos in its talc products, the world’s largest healthcare goods manufacturer has proven that it will stop at nothing to boost profits – even if that means destroying American families in the process.