On Monday, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay over $572 million for pressuring doctors to prescribe opioids while downplaying the risks of addiction.
The Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter claimed that the sales push by Johnson & Johnson and its pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen, began in the 1990s and led to 6,000 deaths.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “’The increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths following the parallel increase in opioid sales in Oklahoma was not a coincidence,’ the judge wrote. From 1994 to 2006, prescription opioid sales increased fourfold, the judge said in the ruling. In 2015, more than 326 million opioid pills were dispensed in the state, enough for every adult Oklahoman to have 110 pills.”
This verdict could set the precedent to find more pharmaceutical companies liable for opioid over-prescriptions. There have currently been more than 2,000 cases brought by various municipalities that seek to hold drug-makers, retail pharmacy chains and distributors accountable for the widespread opioid abuse that has afflicted America for past two decades.