Minutes after a Cleveland County District Court judge slapped Johnson & Johnson with an historic $572 million judgment to help abate the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, the all-American brand and its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies vowed to fight.
Of course they did.
“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” said Michael Ullmann, executive Vice President, General Counsel, Johnson & Johnson. “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.”
According to J & J, the decision in this case is “flawed.” The State failed to present evidence that the Company’s products or actions caused a public nuisance in Oklahoma. The State’s claims violate fundamental principles of due process by seeking to hold a company liable for conduct permitted under federal law and regulations. According to the behemoth company, the decision also disregards 100 years of precedent in public nuisance law, which traditionally has been applied to resolve property disputes, not lawsuits involving the sale of goods.
“This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states,” said Ullmann. “The unprecedented award for the State’s ‘abatement plan’ has sweeping ramifications for many industries and bears no relation to the company’s medicines or conduct.”
Big Pharma and the families that run its conglomerates have been able to wash their hands of the most devastating epidemic this country has ever seen for far too long. They have benefited from the opioid wrath to the tune of billions of dollars while countless families from every rung of the socioeconomic ladder are literally destroyed.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and one of Oklahoma’s key expert witnesses during the trial put it in plain and simple words on the stand:
“I believe Johnson & Johnson was a major cause of our opioid crisis. It was Johnson & Johnson’s opium that flooded into the United States. I think it’s fair to characterize Johnson & Johnson as a Kingpin in our opioid crisis because it was their opium that they were selling and that other drug dealers or pharmaceutical companies were selling.”
“We know that they promoted their products aggressively at a time when it was very clear that the United States was suffering of opioid addiction because of over prescribing,” Kolodny continued. “We know that their sales representatives encouraged doctors to prescribe their opioids for conditions where we shouldn’t use them and prescribe their opioids longer than patients should be on them. We know that they even gave out coupons so patients could be started on their opioids for free.”
Please, Johnson & Johnson—abandon your aforementioned appeal. Shut up and pay. I’d bet one of you has $572 million in an ashtray somewhere.
Please put our scarred country on a well-earned road to recovery. Getting away with murder for decades wasn’t enough?