One of the largest drug manufacturers of the world, Johnson & Johnson, has been dragged into a trial for a multi-billion dollar lawsuit initiated by the state of Oklahoma in the United States.
The company has been accused by prosecutors of being deceptive in their marketing of painkillers as well as in downplaying the risks of addition to such drugs which was the cause of the so-called “opioid epidemic” in the country.
All the charges have been denied by Johnson & Johnson and said that marking of its products had been done in a responsible manner.
This case is the first in about 2000 cases in total that have been filed against pharma companies in the US by state, local and tribal governments.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day on an average. Prescription or illegal opioid was the case of death for 68 per cent of the total death of the 70,200 people from an overdose in 2017.
Johnson & Johnson was the “kingpin” behind “the worst man-made public health crisis in [the] state’s history,” and had a crucial role in the growing and importing raw materials which were used by other pharma companies to manufacture their own products, alleged hat state of Oklahoma in its court filing.
Doctors had been pushed to prescribe more opioids in the 1990s by using misleading marketing by Johnson & Johnson, along with Purdue Pharma – which manufactures the prescription painkiller OxyContin – and Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals, said the state in its opening statements in the city of Norman on Tuesday.
Johnson & Johnson did this by marketing opioids as “safe and effective for everyday pain” but the company essentially downplayed the addictive qualities of the drugs and thereby helped to create oversupply of the drug, said state lawyer Brad Beckworth.
“If you have an oversupply, people will die,” he said.
It was time to hold the companies “responsible for their actions”, Mike Hunter, Oklahoma’s attorney general, told the court.
“This is the worst man-made public health crisis in our state’s history. To put it bluntly, this crisis is devastating Oklahoma,” he said.
The marketing statements of the company were absolutely similar to those made by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009 in which it was stated that painkillers rarely caused addictions if they are managed in the proper manner, said lawyer Larry Ottaway on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.
“We’re not mocking anyone, but facts are stubborn things,” he said.
Over the next 20 to 30 years, costs for remedy of the public nuisance created by Johnson & Johnson would be between $12.7bn and $17.5bn, argued the state. But the company argues that the public nuisance law does not apply in this instance.
A fentanyl patch which can be prescribed for severe pain is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson even though the company is most well known for its baby shampoo and baby powder. opioid analgesics, which change how the body feels and responds to pain in included in a class of drugs that is known as opioid analgesics that alters the feel and response of the body to pain. And when it is mixed with heroin and cocaine, it can also be used as a recreational drug.
(Adapted from BBC.com)