Johnson & Johnson Fined $572 Million for “Greed” in Fueling the Opioid Crisis

Johnson & Johnson Fined $572 Million for “Greed” in Fueling the Opioid Crisis

In a lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Purdue Pharma LP and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries were ordered on Aug. 26, 2019 to pay $572 million in penalties for helping to fuel the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.1

Before the trial began on May 28, the state had reached settlements with Purdue and Teva for $270 million and $85 million respectively.1 2 3 4

Prior to announcing his verdict, Judge Thad Balkman of Cleveland Country District in Oklahoma said, “The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma. It must be abated immediately.”1

According to the Associated Press, Oklahoma’s state attorney general Mike Hunter argued that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries, including Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., “created a public nuisance by launching a ‘cunning, cynical and deceitful’ marketing campaign that overstated the benefits of opioid drugs for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction.”3

“They’ve been the principal origin for the active pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription opioids in the country for the last two decades. It is one of the most important elements of causation with regard to why the defendants … are responsible for the epidemic in the country and in Oklahoma,” Hunter said.4

He added, “There was a simple reason for the crisis: greed. The greed of the pharmaceutical companies caused the crisis.”1 3 4

Judge Balkman’s ruling against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary companies is the first for a state-initiated opioid lawsuit that has made it to trial. It may help determine the course of negotiations involving some 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments against pharmaceutical companies linked to the opioid crisis.1 4

Hunter noted that the Oklahoma case could provide a “road map” for other states to follow. “That’s the message to other states: We did it in Oklahoma. You can do it elsewhere. Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addictions caused by their activities,” Hunter said.1

Johnson & Johnson is a major manufacturer of vaccines, including experimental vaccines for Ebola and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Other biologic products being developed by the company include a universal influenza vaccine and vaccines for the Zika virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).5 6 7 8 9

The company envisions significantly increasing its competitive position within the vaccine market. Last year, Johnson & Johnson announced completion of a new vaccine manufacturing plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, following four years of construction and an investment of €72 million. The Leiden plant was in addition to a small plant acquired through Johnson & Johnson’s purchase of Leiden-based vaccine maker Crucell NV in 2011 for $2.4 billion.8 9 10


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4 Responses to "Johnson & Johnson Fined $572 Million for “Greed” in Fueling the Opioid Crisis"

  1. Kathleen   August 30, 2019 at 1:44 am

    Isn’t there a deeper question to ask here? What factors are causing so much chronic pain? Severe pain, 24/7 for year after year is awful. I would think opioid addiction and even death from overdose would be preferable to that.

    Reply
  2. Dorothy   August 30, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Johnson and Johnson may make them but it is the doctors who prescribe them.

    Reply
  3. Tom   August 30, 2019 at 8:51 am

    The amazing thing is that in order to tap (not even slap) this drug company on the wrist for such a tiny amount of money (compared to the tens (hundreds?) of billions it made doing this activity), they had to be fined for causing a ‘nuisance.’ A ‘nuisance’? That’s all they could be charged with?

    A neighbor with a barking dog is a nuisance. A massive corporation quite literally destroying the fabric of society with addiction and destroyed lives is a bit more than a nuisance.

    Don’t get me wrong, kudos to Oklahoma for actually taking on one of these monsters. I just think it’s a nauseating commentary on how corporate power controls this country…

    Reply
  4. Susan   August 30, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I have a big problem with them filing this lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and them winning. Where is the responsibility of the doctors who prescribe them and of the person who makes the choice to take them. I had surgery and was prescribed 3 medicines that I did not take. Nobody wants to practice self-control. Some pain will not kill us. We are given the view that we cannot and should not suffer and that’s simply wrong. Next it will be some judge ruling against gun manufacturers for someone using a gun that they made. This ruling sets up a bad precedent and I hope they appeal and win. We are in a heap of trouble if they don’t. Think about it.

    Reply

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