An Oklahoma judge has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $572 million in the first case against a drug manufacturer for aggressive marketing and damages related to the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Johnson & Johnson supplied 60% of the opiate ingredients for oxycodone and other drugs through contracts with poppy growers in Tasmania. Between 2015 and 2018, 18 million opioid prescriptions were written in Oklahoma, which has a population of 3.9 million. To determine the settlement amount, the state estimated that services to remediate the effects of the opioid epidemic, such as addiction treatment and drug courts, would cost $17 billion over the next two decades.
In two separate cases over pharmaceutical companies’ responsibility in the opioid crisis, drug makers Endo International and Allergan have agreed to settlements to avoid participating in a trial set to begin on October 21.
Endo has agreed to pay a $10 million settlement to two Ohio counties to settle claims that the drug manufacturer inappropriately marketed its addictive painkillers. The company still faces 18 state cases, 131 cases filed by individuals, 153 by hospitals, and 2,300 by counties or other government entities, primarily in Ohio.
Allergan has agreed to pay $5 million to resolve cases involving its name-brand pain medications, but faces further claims involving its generic opioids. In their settlements, both companies deny any wrongdoing regarding the opioid crisis.
Other drug companies facing trial in October include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen. Earlier this year, Purdue and Teva also reached large settlements over their role in the crisis, agreeing to pay $270 million and $85 million, respectively.
On another front, former Ohio governor John Kasich and West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee are leading efforts to push funds from national opioid settlements, like the Purdue and Teva cases, toward hospitals instead of local and state governments. They formed Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, which will educate politicians and the public about the destruction wrought by the opioid epidemic, particularly on health care infrastructure. “We want to help people understand that this is a crisis and that the caregivers – the hospitals, in particular – are really leading the charge in order to be able to both give care and solve the problem,” Dr. Gee said.