Oklahoma to continue pursuing legal action against notorious opioid manufacturer

An Oklahoman judge has just denied notorious drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ motion to end Oklahoma’s public-nuisance.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal QC

An Oklahoman judge has just denied notorious drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ motion to end Oklahoma’s public-nuisance lawsuit, meaning that Oklahoma is set to become the first successful state to bring a pharmaceutical company to trial.

This denial comes after drug company’s attorney’s attempt on July 3rd to file a motion for dismissal, immediately following the state resting its case.

“District Judge Thad Balkman on Monday denied a motion from the defendant’s lawyers asking him to end Oklahoma’s public-nuisance lawsuit and rule in favor of the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company and its subsidiaries,” the Associated Press reports.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called the result of Johnson & Johnson’s questionable business practices the “worst manmade public health crisis in our state’s history”, adding that “Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries [are] a “kingpin” responsible for the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic”.

Other major drug manufactures have attempted similar tactics of settlements to avoid court trials and the possibility of public prosecution. Just last year, the Sackler family, the sole creators and owners of OxyContin, agreed to a $270M settlement with Oklahoma state, amidst a “wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma”.

Hunter was also a part of that settlement. Following the win, he stated, “The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we’re doing something about it today.”

“Brad Beckworth, a lawyer for the state, told Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman that New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, along with Purdue and Teva, used misleading marketing beginning in the 1990s to push doctors to prescribe more opioids,” Reuters’ Ben Fenwick reports.

This misleading marketing is an integral part of the public nuisance case being made against the company, as the advertising for the drug as being “safe and effective for everyday pain” has proven not only false, but deadly. In America, more than 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If successful, this lawsuit could have great implications for the future of opioids and their consumers: it will mean that doctors and pharmaceutical companies can be held culpable for their haphazard prescriptions and manufacturing of a dangerous drug. They will not be untouchable anymore.

This event could be of particular importance for Canada.

Between 2016 and 2018, more than 10,300 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. “New data released by the agency shows more than 3,200 Canadians died after apparent opioid-related overdoses between January and September last year alone,” CBC News reports.

According to a Statistics Canada analysis, roughly 10 people die every day in Canada from opioid addiction and subsequent opioid-related overdoses. Much like the U.S., there has, so far, been no means for recourse; thus, no means for implementing countermeasures to end the needless death.

You cannot stop a ship from sinking by simply bailing water out: you must plug up the holes. This latest happening may be the beginning of that.


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