An Oklahoma judge on Monday ordered pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million in damages for the role it played in the Sooner State’s opioid crisis.
“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma; it must be abated immediately,” Balkman said in court Monday according to NBC. “For this reason, I’m entering an abatement plan that consists of costs totaling $572,102,028 to immediately remediate the nuisance.”
The defendants “engaged in false and misleading marketing of both their drugs and opioids generally, and the law makes clear that such conduct is more than enough to serve as the act or omission necessary to establish the first element of Oklahoma’s public nuisance law,” Balkman wrote in his ruling.
Johnson & Johnson’s parent company Janssen announced it will be appealing the ruling.
“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and general counsel for Johnson & Johnson, said in a written statement on Monday.
“We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need,” he added.
“This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states,” said Ullmann.
According to CNN, Oklahoma is one of dozens of states suing opioid drug makers.
“A federal trial is slated for this fall in which nearly 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands have been rolled into one, accusing opioid makers of causing the epidemic,” the news outlet reported.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that every day more than 130 people in the U.S. are dying from overdosing on opioids.
The drugs include heroin, prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that opioids accounted for about 68 percent of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017.
President Donald Trump will donate his second quarter salary to the Surgeon General’s office to support the fight against opioid addiction and inform the public about the dangers of youth e-cigarette usage.
“The President recognizes the important mission of the Surgeon General to protect and improve the health of all Americans, including helping to tackle the opioid epidemic and raise awareness of the dangers of e-cigarette usage among teenagers and children,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump, who is a teetotaler, has spoken on multiple occasions about the terrible sense of loss he felt when his older brother Fred Trump died from the effects of alcoholism in the early 1980s. He was only 43 years old.
In October 2017, while announcing an anti-opioid campaign, Trump said he learned from his brother’s alcoholism the importance of never even trying addictive substances.
“It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” the president said. “We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”
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