The American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has to pay 572 million dollars because the pharmacy group is partly responsible for the opioid crisis in the United States. A judge decided that in the US state of Oklahoma after a week-long trial.
That amount is a lot less than the requirement of more than 17 billion dollars from the prosecutor of Oklahoma, Mike Hunter. He believes that J&J, one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical companies in the world, is jointly liable for the opioid crisis in the US because the company is said to have flooded the market with powerful painkillers and caused an epidemic.
Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died of painkillers overdoses. Of those, about 6,000 were in Oklahoma, the prosecutors said. Earlier this year, they reached settlements on the opioid issue with two other pharmaceutical companies, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Then it was 270 million dollars and 85 million dollars respectively. After that J&J was the only party left.
The state of Oklahoma wants to use the money from J&J for the next 30 years to take action against the opioid crisis through programs for treatment and prevention of addiction. J&J denies having done something wrong and calls the painkiller crisis a “complex social problem.”
The company immediately announced that it would appeal the ruling. On Wall Street, J&J’s course was on the rise after the closing, because the fine was considerably lower than expected. Elsewhere in the US, there are thousands of similar lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies.
Fentanyl: fifty times more potent than heroin
One of the highly addictive painkillers that caused the epidemic is fentanyl, a compelling alternative to morphine that was developed in 1960 by the late doctor Paul Janssen, the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse. His company has been a subsidiary of J&J for many years.
The opioid is fifty times more powerful than heroin and can be produced relatively quickly and cheaply. Many addicted Americans order a stock of fentanyl in China via the internet that is delivered by mail.
President Donald Trump stated in tweets that parcel carriers and web stores such as UPS, Amazon, and FedEx should track and stop all deliveries of fentanyl from China and other countries. According to the US government, China is not keeping its promises to act against fentanyl traders. “Flagrant slander,” Bejing responds.