In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
A lawsuit was filed by the State of Oklahoma for what became “the opioid crisis” plaguing the nation. Several other states and municipalities have followed suit.
Following a seven-week trial this summer, Judge Thad Balkman ruled Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the opioid crisis with an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction. Oklahoma Attorney General prosecuted the lawsuit arguing that opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2017. The trial led to the judge ordering consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to help address the state’s opioid crisis. The judge then reduced the amount to $465 million.
Now attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have appealed an Oklahoma judge’s order for the company to pay $465 million to address the state’s opioid crisis” according to the Associated Press.
Johnson & Johnson “argues in an appeal filed Monday that the judge misapplied the state’s public nuisance laws in reaching his decision.” Johnson & Johnson “also maintains that the award should be reduced by $355 million to offset pretrial settlements between the state and two other drugmakers.”
The state of Oklahoma also plans to appeal the judge’s order, arguing that the $465 million it was awarded would only cover one year of its cleanup plan. The state has until Monday to file its appeal.
At the trial, “the judge ruled that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the opioid crisis by using an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that understated the addiction risk of opioids and overstated their effectiveness in treating chronic pain.”
In November the Oklahoma judge Thad Balkman acknowledged that he was three decimal places off — mistaking thousands for millions — when he originally calculated the amount Johnson & Johnson should pay for its role in the state’s opioids crisis.
As a result, Judge Balkman announced on Friday a new fine, reduced by about $107 million. The total is now $465 million, down from the $572 million he assessed in August.