Oklahoma judge orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $572m in landmark opioid trial

The judge ruled that J&J's marketing of painkillers contributed to the state's opioid crisis.

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

An Oklahoma judge has found Johnson & Johnson responsible for the state’s opioid crisis after state attorneys argued the company’s aggressive and deceptive marketing fueled the epidemic. 

Oklahoma judge Thad Balkman ordered J&J and subsidiary Janssen to pay $572 million in his ruling after an eight-week trial. 

Lawyers for the state emphasized the role of J&J’s marketing. The lawsuit went to trial in May, with the state claiming that opioid makers J&J, Purdue Pharma and Teva downplayed the risks of addiction to opioids in order to sell more drugs. Janssen makes opioid drugs Nucynta and Duragesic. 

J&J is reportedly planning to appeal the decision. 

Before the trial began, both Purdue and Teva reached a settlement with Oklahoma. Purdue agreed to a $270 million settlement and Teva paid $85 million, leaving Janssen as the sole defendant. 

The Oklahoma case was the first opioid-related lawsuit to go to trial. There are hundreds of state, city and tribal lawsuits around the country related to opioids.

Meanwhile, court documents in a Kentucky lawsuit against Purdue Pharma were unsealed by a separate decision on Monday. That decision will make public documents about Purdue’s marketing tactics for Oxycodone; internal information about clinical trials and sales tactics; and the involvement of executives, including members of the Sackler family, in the marketing and sales of the drug. Purdue settled the case with Kentucky in 2015 for $24 million.

Allergan and Endo settled a federal opioid lawsuit in Ohio last week for $15 million. That lawsuit, which also names J&J, Purdue, Teva and drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, is set to go to trial in October

Johnson & Johnson is also facing thousands of lawsuits that claim its talc baby powder caused cancer. Last month, the Justice Department began a criminal probe to investigate whether the company lied about possible cancer risks from the product. J&J has been ordered to pay millions in damages from talc-related lawsuits. On its Q2 earnings call, J&J’s CFO said the company will continue to defend itself in talc and opioid lawsuits.

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com. 

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