Opioid Resource Center

Opioid Resource Center

August 26, 2019
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Judge rules against Johnson & Johnson in opioid lawsuit

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Regina LaBelle
Regina LaBelle

Judge Thad H. Balkman of the Cleveland County District Court in Oklahoma ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state more than $572 million in damages for its role in the opioid epidemic.

“Today's decision in the Oklahoma opioid trial against Johnson & Johnson sends an important message to every pharmaceutical company involved in opioid litigation,” Regina LaBelle, JD, program director for the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told Healio Primary Care. “That is, they will be held accountable for the role they played in marketing and distributing opioids, and they are expected to contribute to a solution.”

The case, which began 2 years ago, originally included claims against multiple other opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, who agreed to pay Oklahoma $270 million, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, who agreed to an $85 million settlement.

The state asserted that Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance by flooding it with opioids, compromising the health and safety of thousands of residents through increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Opioids 
Judge Thad H. Balkman of the Cleveland County District Court in Oklahoma ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state more than $572 million in damages for its role in the opioid epidemic.
Source: Adobe Stock

“Holding Johnson & Johnson responsible under a public nuisance claim for its role in driving an unprecedented surge in opioid overdose deaths over the past decade is especially significant in light of the multidistrict litigation set to begin in October in Ohio,” LaBelle noted.

Johnson & Johnson announced in a press release that they plan to appeal the decision.

“While the amount of money awarded in the Oklahoma case is significant, what is most important going forward is that the proceeds from the litigation be spent building the type of health care system necessary to prevent, treat and sustain recovery for those with substance use disorder,” LaBelle told Healio Primary Care. “Unfortunately, we can expect appeals, so these funds won't be available immediately, but the message sent is significant nonetheless.” – by Erin Michael

Disclosure: LaBelle reports that earlier this year, she advised a plaintiffs' law firm on opioid litigation. She is not currently advising them.