NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen pharmaceutical companies today announced they will appeal the $572 million civil judgment entered in Cleveland County District Court in the State of Oklahoma's lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.
According to a statement released by New Brunswick-based pharmaceutical giant today, Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, said Michael Ullmann, Executive Vice President, General Counsel for Johnson & Johnson.
"We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected," Ullmann said. "We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need."
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman's ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.
"The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma,” Balkman said before announcing the verdict, according to the Associated Press. “It must be abated immediately.”
Before Oklahoma’s trial began May 28, Oklahoma reached settlements with two other defendant groups — a $270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a public nuisance by launching an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state.
According to Johnson & Johnson's statement, the judgement disregards the company's compliance with federal and state laws, the role its medicines play in the lives of the people who need them, its responsible marketing practices and that since launch, DURAGESIC, NUCYNTA and NUCYNTA ER have accounted for less than 1% of total opioid prescriptions in Oklahoma as well as the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates nearly 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. These patients should not be ignored, Johnson & Johnson said in its statement.
Johnson & Johnson has called the Hub City home for 133 years and its name looms as large as its 230-foot-tall tower at 1 Johnson & Johnson Plaza. It ranks No. 37 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. corporations based on total revenue.