August 27, 2019

In a landmark ruling, an Oklahoma judge slammed Johnson & Johnson for their role in the opioid epidemic.

"Pharmaceutical companies are on high alert this morning after a landmark ruling. An Oklahoma judge for pushing doctors to prescribe opioids to patients and contributing to the state's drug epidemic. Bottom line, Johnson & Johnson must now pay $572 million," Chris Jansing said.

"This was the first case to go forward against a large drug manufacturer that would go to trial and this is the judge ruling and saying Johnson & Johnson was in part responsible for the opioid epidemic," Kate Snow reported.

"They got a fine of less than the $17 billion that prosecutors and the attorney general had wanted - 500 plus million dollars is still a fairly large sum. and so for those on the side of the prosecutors, they consider this a huge victory. And it could have a lot of implications, Chris, for what happens next because there are thousands of suits now filed against manufacturers and distributors."

"Mr. Attorney General, I'm wondering what you hope will come out of this. There were some harsh words in the judge's ruling including calling Johnson & Johnson 'pervasively, systematically, and substantially' caused the opioid epidemic. But what in your mind does this ruling mean?" Jansing asked.

"Well, there were appropriately harsh words in the judge's decision that were a product of the evidence and the testimony that we provided to him in this trial," Oklahoma attorney general Mike Hunter said.

"First of all, the 4 million Oklahomans who I represent are my clients in this case. I have an oath of office to discharge my responsibilities as the chief law enforcement officer in a way that's consistent with their interests, and when people do bad things and businesses are just like people, they do bad things, it's my responsibility, the responsibility of AGs around the country to hold them responsible. In this case, Johnson & Johnson acted in a way that was irresponsible, in many ways reckless with regard to the oversupply and convincing prescribers that their opioid products weren't really addictive. They did that systematically. They did that in a way that was calculated. They did that in a way that was motivated in my judgment by avarice and greed. So this decision is welcome. It's, again, justified by the facts and the evidence. It's a strong message hopefully to the rest of the country. and, hopefully, a strong message to the CEO of this company. He needs to take responsibility for what this company has done for the last two decades and write a check to this state for half a billion dollars plus so that we can start getting a handle on this epidemic."

This isn't the first time drug companies pushed drugs. Methaqualone, aka Quaaludes, were a growing problem in the 70s and 80s. Although I can't find documentation now, I remember something about a congressman's kid who OD'd as the major impetus behind a crackdown that eventually put the drug out of business. Of course, Big Pharma wasn't quite as powerful then.

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