Oklahoma judge reduces opioid verdict against Johnson & Johnson

Oklahoma judge reduces opioid verdict against Johnson & Johnson

An Oklahoma judge on Friday reduced an earlier ruling against Johnson & Johnson for its role in the state’s opioid crisis.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman revised his initial ruling and told the company to pay $465 million, rather than the $572 million penalty he had originally ordered in August.

The update was due to an error calculating how much the company would pay to correct just one year of the crisis. 

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Oklahoma had asked for $17 billion over 30 years to abate the cost of the opioid epidemic, but Balkman found the state did not sufficiently provide evidence of the costs beyond one year.  

The decision was the first to hold a drugmaker liable for the epidemic. Balkman found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals liable for engaging in false and misleading marketing practices of their drugs generally and opioids specifically that helped lead to thousands of overdose deaths.

"The defendant caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome, in Oklahoma," Balkman wrote in the initial verdict. 

On Friday, he rejected a request from Johnson & Johnson to reduce the judgement even further, in order to take into account the state's pretrial settlements with other drug companies Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

He also rejected a request from the state to continue to review whether additional payments beyond the first year will be required.

Johnson & Johnson in a statement said they will continue their appeal. 

“We are moving forward with our appeal of this judgment because it is neither supported by the facts nor the law. We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We do not believe litigation is the answer and are continuing to work with partners to find solutions,” the company said.