Johnson & Johnson fueled the opioid crisis And it will pay 572 million dollars
According to the US judge who issued the verdict, the group would have started misleading marketing campaigns that led doctors to prescribe opioid-based drugs more than they should and thus endangering patients’ health.
An Oklahoma judge, one of the 50 US states, has ruled that Johnson & Johnson, the US multinational that produces drugs, hygiene, and body care products and medical equipment, has helped fuel the opioid epidemic in the country.
The culprit of the colossus would be to have conducted “deceptive and dangerous” marketing campaigns that led doctors to prescribe opioid-based painkillers more than they should and endangered the health of the patients to whom they were administered.
The awaited verdict arrived on our night on August 26th and ended a trial that began last May 28th and was broadcast in large part on streaming. In all, 109 people were heard and there were 33 hearings. The last one was held last July.
According to several analysts, this is a historic sentence in an equally historic process: the first on the opioid crisis and on the responsibilities of a pharmaceutical company in one of the most serious epidemics ever recorded.
Last October Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency also due to the high number of deaths from opioid overdoses: about 400 thousand from 2000 to date.
The fifth global pharmaceutical group will now have to pay a compensation of 572 million dollars. A high but much lower figure than the 17 billion asked by the prosecutor Mike Hunter that they would have been equal to about 75% of the profits forecast for 2019.
Thad Balkman, the judge who issued the verdict, accepted prosecutor Mike Hunter’s argument that Johnson & Johnson would cause public harm by aggressively promoting two of his opioid-based drugs – Duragesyc and the Nucynta – and minimizing or providing misleading information about their side effects.
One of all, the risk of developing an addiction to opioids, which we recall, is a very important resource in pain management therapy but should be administered and used with caution.
“The defendants, in agreement with others, started a campaign in which they used marketing to spread the message that pain was not treated effectively and there was a low risk of misusing it and a danger small ‘in prescribing opioids,’ reads the 42-page sentence. “A key element of the marketing strategy was the promotion of the message that pain was not managed effectively and opioids were the solution.”
According to the judge, this strategy has led to an increase in the prescriptions of these drugs and endangered the lives of patients, some of whom ended up abusing them or becoming dependent.
Not only. The group would also have used some distorted and discredited statements about low opioid dependence and presented them to doctors as evidence of the safety of the drug.
In this regard, the sentence reads: “In 2001, the defendants were warned by its own scientific advisory committee that the messages used for the opioid marketing campaigns, and of the Drugesic in particular, were misleading and should not be disclosed”.
Johnson & Johnson continued to deny any responsibility and said he would appeal. According to the group’s lawyers, the multinational has always acted in line with the dictates of the Food and Drug Administration, the US federal agency that deals with the regulation of food and pharmaceutical products, and the marketing strategies were “correct and appropriate”, they had repeated the representatives of the multinational company several times.
In the process, the defense had also argued that it was not possible to hold the multinational company responsible for the epidemic for two other reasons: the two disputed drugs are only a fraction of the opioids on the market and the doctors were aware of the effects that those drugs could have on the patient.
“The label specified the risk of developing an addiction, one linked to its abuse or incorrect use that could lead to an overdose or death,” defense lawyer Larry Ottaway had specified.
Johnson & Johnson was not the only pharmaceutical group called into question by prosecutor Hunter.
PurduePharma, producer of OxyContin, and Teva Pharmaceutical were also under observation. Both had denied any responsibility, but they preferred to negotiate. Johnson & Johnson, on the other hand, had made a different choice. The group’s lawyers said they were going to appeal.
Lawsuits alone will not fix the US opioid overdose crisis Download PDF
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