Healthcast: Johnson & Johnson faces verdict in opioid trial


(HEALTHCAST)—UPDATE: An Oklahoma judge has found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid drug crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to help address the problem.

Cleveland County Judge Thad Balkman issued the decision Monday in the nation’s first state trial against the companies accused of contributing to the widespread use of the highly addictive painkillers.

An Oklahoma judge is expected to issue a ruling on whether pharmaceutical giant “Johnson and Johnson” will be held responsible for the state’s opioid epidemic.

On Monday morning a historic verdict is expected in Oklahoma, one that could have far-reaching consequences for drug companies in the wake of the nation’s opioid crisis.

“You need to make Johnson and Johnson clean up this mess that they have made in Oklahoma,” State council Mike Burch said.

Oklahoma state attorneys argue that pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson and subsidiary Janssen pharmaceuticals should be held partly responsible for the state’s opioid epidemic.

Crisis officials said has led to more than 6,000 deaths over nearly two decades.

“Johnson & Johnson knew opioid drugs were addictive and caused harm. Despite that, they marketed their drugs as safe and effective for everyday pain,” Oklahoma state attorney Brad Beckworth said.

The state is asking for more than $17 billion from the company, claiming it aggressively marketed the powerful drugs to doctors while downplaying the risks.

Johnson and johnson denies any wrongdoing…

“It brought essential medicines to people who suffer from debilitating, chronic pain,” attorney for Johnson and Johnson Sabrina Strong said.

“What the evidence showed at trial is that the company did absolutely nothing wrong,” Strong said.

Strong said the company’s drugs are heavily regulated and infrequently prescribed and that the state could not produce any evidence that doctors had been misled.

“The facts are that the company’s products were rarely diverted, rarely abused, an amount to less than 1% of all the opioid medicines that are prescribed to patients in Oklahoma,” Strong said.

Johnson and Johnson is now awaiting the verdict.

Two other drug-makers originally named in the lawsuit settled with the state. Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $85 million in June and in March, Purdue Pharma paid $270 million both denying any wrongdoing.

This case is one of many pending claims with nearly two thousand that have been filed across the country suing drugmakers and distributors.

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