(RTTNews) - An Oklahoma judge on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) to pay $572 million after finding the company and its subsidiaries responsible for opioid drug epidemic.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman's ruling could impact about several hundreds of similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments. This case is one of about 2,000 actions by state and local governments accusing drug manufacturers of contributing to the opioid epidemic. Opioids were linked to a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma," Balkman said before announcing the verdict. "It must be abated immediately."
The state of Oklahoma had earlier reached settlements with two other defendants. It agreed a $270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a epidemic by launching 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 Mike Hunter says opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017.
The fine amount was less than the $1 billion some analysts had expected.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson said it will appeal the $572 million civil judgment as it is confident it has strong grounds to appeal this decision.
"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."
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