An Oklahoma judge has ordered health care and consumer packaged goods corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay $572.1 million to the state for its role in the opioid epidemic that has caused 6,000 deaths in Oklahoma over nearly two decades.
The judge found J&J and its pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen guilty of creating a public nuisance through a misleading marketing campaign that overstated the effectiveness of opioids for treating chronic pain while understating the risk of addiction. Some methods used by J&J included pushing educational programming by sales representatives without training on opioids and funding articles in medical journals without addressing the risk of addiction. The judge’s decision also allocated one year of funds toward addiction treatment and prevention programs.
J&J denied any wrongdoing and released a statement with their plan to appeal the decision.
This case is seen as precedent setting as 2,000 opioid cases are pending before a federal judge in Ohio. It’s also relevant in Canada as the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia await their chance in court. B.C. filed a class action lawsuit last year against dozens of pharmaceutical companies producing opioids and Ontario joined the lawsuit earlier this year. Both provinces are hoping to recoup the health-care costs lost to the opioid epidemic and invest in front-line mental health and addiction services.
In 2016, Ontario announced a provincial strategy addressing opioid addiction and overdose, outlining steps to modernize the process of opioid prescribing and monitoring, improve the treatment of pain, and enhance addiction supports and harm reductions. Part of the strategy included increasing access to naloxone, an opioid antagonist, for which CMHA Ontario created this resource. Reducing Harms: Recognizing and Responding to Opioid Overdoses in Your Organization takes a harm-reduction approach to the opioid epidemic in Ontario, provides steps to administering naloxone and guidelines for implementation at an organizational level.