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Oklahoma Judge Targets Johnson & Johnson For Intensifying The Country’s Opioid Crisis

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More than 130 people in the United States of America die due to opioid overdose every day. The misuse of prescription drugs containing opioids such as prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl is a serious crisis that affects the public health as well as the social and economic well being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total economic burden of prescription opioid abuse in the United States is USD78.5 billion per year. This cost includes the cost of health-care, rehabilitation, addiction treatment, lost productivity and criminal justice involvement.

On Monday, an Oklahoma judge fined one of America’s biggest industry Johnson & Johnson for as its subsidiaries helped fuel the stat’s opioid crisis. The company is bound to pay a fine of USD 572 million, which is twice the amount charged on other drug companies. District Judge Thad Balkman’s decision made this case to be the first one to reach the trials, after the filing of 1,500 similar lawsuits by the state, local and tribal governments.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma,” Balkman said. “It must be abated immediately.” Before the Oklahoma trials, two other pharmaceutical companies settled— a USD 270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and a USD 85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

According to the state, these companies are responsible for creating a public nuisance by misleading the public by overstating the effect of these drugs for treating chronic pain. These companies use misleading marketing techniques to lure the customers and without stating the risk of addiction. According to the statistics, opioid overdose has killed 4,653 people in the state between 2007 to 2017.

Johnson & Johnson’s other subsidiaries face backlash.

The officials blame the company for being motivated by greed and not thinking enough about the consequences of opioid addiction. Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, two former Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, produced a large amount of raw opium which was used by other companies to produce drugs.

“That’s the message to other states: We did it in Oklahoma. You can do it elsewhere,” officials said. “Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addictions caused by their activities.” The officials believe that the company has been the principal origin for the opioid use with active pharmaceutical ingredients for more than 20 years. Hence, they are held responsible for the epidemic in the country.