Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million for Role in Opiate Crisis

Illustration for article titled Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million for Role in Opiate Crisis
Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

In a landmark ruling, Oklahoma judge Thad Balkman ruled against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson today in the first trial meant to extract retribution from drugmakers for fueling the unprecedented wave of opiate-related overdoses and deaths in the U.S.


The case, opened by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, originally targeted Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals in addition to Johnson & Johnson. The former two firms reportedly settled without admitting blame for $270 million and $85 million, respectively.

Expected fines for Johnson & Johnson ranged anywhere from $500 million to $5 billion. Upon news that Judge Balkman had hewed towards the lower end of that spectrum, stocks rose for many pharma companies, Johnson & Johnson included. In his $572 million decision today, Balkman said Johnson & Johnson had engaged in “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids” which “compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.”

Although the decision is almost certain to be appealed, Judge Balkman’s decision makes it that much more likely other states will pursue similar tactics against pharma companies, many of which had a direct hand in aggressively pushing opiate-based painkillers to patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 47,000 died of opiate overdoses in 2017 alone. When the 18 preceding years are included, that number jumps to over 400,000.


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Horseshit. Let’s all agree that this fine is probably symbolic and in name only. Nucynta is fucking evil incarnate. I was offered that in 2012 at the urging of my pain specialist because of the touted benefits the rep sold him on. Being a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, it’s supposed to be safer than others. But if you have a marked imbalance of serotonin and norepinephrine, you’re gonna die of serotonin syndrome, especially if you are prescribed a SSRI already.

Here’s the thing. Serotonin Syndrome is one of those things you usually find out after the person is dead. Let’s just say that a very traumatic accident, medication combination, and what was thought at the time a nervous breakdown due to stress caused my medical professionals to conclude I have a serious fucking imbalance of both serotonin and norepinephrine at a baseline level. There’s a yuge red flag in my charts warning anyone against meds that can affect serotonin in that manner. Tramadol and Zoloft is what did it for me. Any of you pharmacological savvy chaps should say, “Well no fucking shit! Those two taken together is really dangerous!” But no less than 5 points in the line thought to say something. I’m really lucky I’m not fucking dead.

The rep seriously downplayed the risk to my doctor on that. Said it will be fine. Guess what? It wasn’t fine. My marbles started falling out RFN after starting that shit. When I got a second opinion on the drug, the pharmacist had to call both the doc and rep to tell them this is bad. The rep actually told the pharmacist he did not know what he was talking about.

Fuck J&J. Fuck Teva. Fuck Purdue. Fuck InSys. All of them knew godsdamned well what they were doing. There’s a special place in Eternity for them. Complete with lava and molten salt enemas.