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Johnson & Johnson hit with $572m fine for opioid marketing contributing to 'worst drug epidemic in US history'

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By John Glenday, Reporter

August 27, 2019 | 3 min read

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572m compensation by the state of Oklahoma for its part in fuelling opioid addiction.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson hit with $572m opioid compensation claim in a landmark ruling

The landmark ruling relates to a ‘false and dangerous’ sales campaign undertaken by the drugs giant which pushed painkillers despite knowing they could spark addiction leading to death.

Judge Thad Balkman pulled no punches in a scathing verdict which attributed responsibility for what has been described as the worst drug epidemic in US history on Johnson & Johnson’s shoulders, which included manipulating doctors to prescribe opioids more freely.

Balkman wrote: “A key element in [Johnson & Johnson’s] opioid marketing strategy to overcome barriers to liberal opioid prescribing was its promotion of the concept that chronic pain was under-treated (creating a problem) and increased opioid prescribing was the solution

“Among other things, they sent sales representatives into Oklahoma doctors’ offices to deliver misleading messages, they disseminated misleading pamphlets, coupons, and other printed materials for patients and doctors, and they misleadingly advertised their drugs over the internet.”

The verdict could be the tip of a far larger iceberg with a further 2,000 lawsuits still pending around the country relating to 400,000 deaths over the past 20 years attributed to opioid misuse.

Johnson & Johnson has vowed to appeal against the decision, arguing that its drugs had been approved for use by federal regulators and that it could not be linked to any of the deaths in Oklahoma.

State intervention in the activities of pharmaceutical firms is increasing in America with a new mandate to provide upfront drug pricing on TV ads.

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