In a new suit filed by Oklahoma against multiple pharmaceutical companies, the State of Oklahoma and Attorney General Mike Hunter have asked the state to release documents that companies like Johnson & Johnson have marked as confidential in order to “end J&J’s secrecy once and for all.”
The suit wants to make it clear that the public and policymakers know how exactly Johnson & Johnson may have influenced the current opioid crisis we are seeing. They want to answer questions like: “Did J&J target children? Did J&J target veterans returning from deployment? Did J&J target the elderly?” and more.
Johnson & Johnson and the Opioid Crisis
Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than motor vehicle crashes and gun-related problems. According to President Trump, more than 300,000 Americans have died of an opioid overdose since 2000. The opioid crisis is the deadliest drug epidemic the country has seen.
Oklahoma is one state specifically that has suffered from this public health crisis. According to the document, opioid prescription rates increased fourfold between 1997 and 2007 and overdose deaths followed that trend. In 2012, Oklahoma had the fifth-highest unintentional poisoning death rate and prescription opioids contributed in a majority of these deaths.
In fact, according to the suit filed by the State of Oklahoma, there are more prescription drug overdose death each year in Oklahoma than overdose deaths from alcohol and all illegal drugs combined. Similarly, the state leads the nation in the non-medical use of opioid painkillers.
And, now, people are looking answers on how this crisis came to be.
“Our Legislature, Governor, policymakers and doctors need to know the truth about how one particular company, [Johnson & Johnson], inserted itself into our [State] and sought to influence every opioid-related division the State made or considered — from scheduling to swallowing.”
Now that answers are being sought, Attorney General Hunter and the state are alleging that Johnson & Johnson are fighting to “keep these answers concealed. In the Dark. Away from the Public.”
Johnson & Johnson are best known for products like band-aids and baby powder, but the company also has a history with prescription pain medication. This included Tasmanian poppy fields. Similarly, the company owned Nucynta, an opioid pill before it sold iit for $1 billion in 2015. And the company still sells Duragesic, a fentanyl patch.
The new filing, commented on the recent suit filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the outrage that followed when details were released about Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing tactics in order to make OxyContin the number one drug in the country.
When the details in the Massachusetts filing became public, there was national public outcry. However, Hunter and Oklahoma allege that Johnson & Johnson played a similar role in the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.
“J&J was there arm-in-arm with Purdue the whole way....J&J — a ‘family company’ — acted as the kingpin behind this Public Health Emergency, profiting at every stage,” the Oklahoma document said.
The lawsuit alleges that through a channel of foreign and domestic Johnson & Johnson-owned subsidies, they created, grew, imported, and supplied Johnson & Johnson and other “co-conspirators”, including Purdue Pharma with the narcotic raw materials to create the opioid pain medications that were “thrust upon the unsuspecting public.”
According to the new Oklahoma filing, Johnson & Johnson produced millions of pages of document but blanket-designated the vast majority of them as “Confidential”. The suit seeks to make multiple reports, slideshows, and other documents available publicly in order to give the people access and understanding to the strategies allegedly used by companies like Johnson & Johnson.
The first big trial in the opioid epidemic is set to begin in May in Oklahoma, the trial will set the stage for similar litigation's in other states.
Johnson & Johnson Response
Johnson & Johnson released a response to the newly filed suit. In the statement the company said that it acted “appropriately and responsibly” and met all laws and regulations on the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of active pharmaceutical ingredients or any of the materials that go into them..
“Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible,” the response read. “The allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated.”
The company’s response also mentions that opioid abuse and addiction are serious issues and that it is committed to helping to find ways to address the crisis.
The new suit makes one thing perfectly clear. In the past litigation has targeted Purdue Pharma above all. However, this new suit shows that there are other targets who may be just as responsible for the opioid crisis that the country is facing.
Opioids and prescription pills are leading to the death of tens of thousands of Americans each year. If you or a loved one is dealing with some sort of substance use disorder, Landmark Recovery can help. Please reach out to Landmark and visit our website to learn more about a personalized treatment plan.