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US court rules drugmaker Johnson & Johnson must pay $572m for its role in opioid crisis in Oklahoma

Author: Russell Hotten, BBC News New York, Published on: 28 August 2019

"Opioid crisis: Johnson & Johnson hit by landmark ruling", 27 Aug 2019

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson must pay $572m (£468m) for its part in fuelling Oklahoma's opioid addiction crisis, a judge in the US state has ruled...The company said immediately after the judgement that it would appeal.

The case was the first to go to trial out of thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid makers and distributors. Opioids were involved in almost 400,000 overdose deaths in the US from 1999 to 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, some 6,000 people in Oklahoma have died from opioid overdoses, according to the state's lawyers. Earlier this year, Oklahoma settled with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for $270m and Teva Pharmaceutical for $85m, leaving Johnson & Johnson as the lone defendant.

During Oklahoma's seven-week non-jury trial, lawyers for the state argued that Johnson & Johnson carried out a years-long marketing campaign that minimised the addictive painkillers' risks and promoted their benefits. The state's lawyers had called Johnson & Johnson an opioid "kingpin" and argued that its marketing efforts created a public nuisance as doctors over-prescribed the drugs, leading to a surge in overdose deaths in Oklahoma. Johnson & Johnson vigorously denied wrongdoing, arguing that its marketing claims had scientific support and that its painkillers... made up a tiny fraction of opioids prescribed in Oklahoma.

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Related companies: Johnson & Johnson