Johnson & Johnson fined $572 million for their part in Oklahoma's opioid epidemic
Zoe McLaughlin
Mon Aug 26 2019

In a groundbreaking case against the massive opioid producer, Johnson & Johnson has been fined $572 million for their part in causing Oklahoma’s drug problem. Prescription opioids caused 277 unintentional poisoning deaths in the state in 2017. Oklahoma has historically had drastically higher drug overdose death rates than the United States average, which led to the state wanting consequences for the massive corporations behind these drugs.

This is not the first lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for opioid-related reasons. In May 2019, the founder and several high-ranking former executives of Insys Therapeutics, Inc. were found guilty of racketeering because they bribed doctors to prescribe their medication and misled insurance companies about the importance of the drug. Other states have also previously sued pharmaceutical companies. A federal trial scheduled for Fall 2019 combines these cases blaming the manufacturers for the nationwide opioid epidemic. The outcome of this case against Johnson & Johnson provides a precedent for punishing the pharmaceutical companies. This case may be a major factor in the decision of the case this fall.

Johnson & Johnson already has plans to appeal this case. One of their lawyers stated that “we have many strong grounds for appeal and we intend to pursue those vigorously.” But will their appeal succeed? Public opinion is not on their side; the opioid is a deeply personal issue for many Americans. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die from an opioid overdose every day in America. Many people blame the drug companies for the massive number of addicted opioid users because of their misleading marketing tactics and previous insistence that their drugs are not addictive. It is a constantly growing issue, and there is no clear solution.

Will this case have a huge impact on Johnson & Johnson? The company grosses tens of billions of dollars every year, $572 million will not affect them much fiscally. Their stock prices actually rose after the announcement of their fine, as many investors expected them to be fined a higher amount. But the public will remember this case, and the knowledge that a judge determined that the corporation played a major role in causing the opioid epidemic may influence customers to chose different brands. This case may not cause much change in the medical industry, but the federal case this fall could have a much larger impact.

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