Oklahoma judge orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $572M in opioid suit

NORMAN, OK (ABC) – An Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay in excess of $572 million as part of a lawsuit about the spread of the opioid epidemic in the state.

The settlement order is a landmark decision, coming months after a different pharmaceutical company was ordered to pay $270 million for their role in the crisis.

On Monday, Cleveland County Judge Thad Balkman made his judgment in the lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general against the company for what the state alleges it did to fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

In reading out his settlement decision, Balman said that “the opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma.” The nine-figure settlement, while hefty, pales in comparison to what the attorney general’s office originally asked for, as they reportedly asked for in excess of $17 billion in damages.

“Our case has revealed how corporate greed got in the way of responsible practices by Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement about the case in July.

The Johnson & Johnson has denied wrongdoing in the case.

“Throughout trial our team repeatedly laid waste to the state’s case, which it built on misstatements and distortions,” attorney John Sparks, who is representing Johnson & Johnson and their subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., said after closing statements, according to The Associated Press.

“The facts are that Janssen appropriately provided essential pain treatment options to Oklahomans while balancing the inherent risks associated with these medicines,” Sparks said, according to the AP.

Hunter disagrees, saying in his July statement that the state’s evidence “has shown how the company perpetuated the epidemic through the targeting of high prescribing doctors, repeatedly ignoring warnings to clean up its act by the federal government and its own scientific advisers and the myriad of other deceitful practices on its way to selling more highly addictive drugs to a vulnerable population.”

The case against Johnson & Johnson comes after Purdue Pharma settled with Oklahoma in March for $270 million.

Of that settlement, $200 million was earmarked for the Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery, which conducts treatment and research, with the remainder of the settlement going towards the state’s legal fees and local initiatives to fight the opioid epidemic.

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