The Oklahoma State Supreme Court on Tuesday annulled a ruling against the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for which it was obliged to pay a fine of 465 million dollars (401 million euros) imposed in 2019 for the opioid crisis experienced in United States. A 5-to-1 vote has supported the high court’s argument that lower court District Judge Thad Balkman did not adequately interpret the state disorderly conduct law. This is the first civil lawsuit against a US laboratory related to opioids, powerful painkillers synthetically derived from opium.
The 2019 ruling alleged that companies that advertised, sold and distributed opioids inundated communities with billions of pain pills that addicted thousands of people and led to overdoses. The judge established the figure of 465 million to be paid by the company as the amount necessary to pay for programs for one year to remedy the addiction crisis, which has caused more than half a million deaths in 20 years in the United States. The State initially claimed up to $ 17 billion in compensation corresponding to 20 years of funding for these programs.
“With this decision,” writes Oklahoma Supreme Justice James R. Winchester in the ruling, “we do not minimize the seriousness of the harm that thousands of Oklahomans have suffered from opioids.” “As serious as the harm caused to the public by opioid addiction in Oklahoma, public order law is not the solution to that problem.”
“Johnson & Johnson is no longer promoting opioid prescribing and has not done so in several years,” since 2015, Judge Winchester wrote. “Even with J & J’s marketing practices, these drugs accounted for less than 1% of all opioid prescriptions in Oklahoma.” From 2007 to 2017, more than 4,600 people died in Oklahoma from opioid overdoses, according to statistics from that state in the American Midwest. The Supreme Court has also rejected the State’s appeal to increase the compensatory figure.
The ruling comes a week after a judge in California provisionally ruled in favor of Big Pharma in a lawsuit filed by several local governments seeking billions of dollars to cover the costs of the opioid epidemic in the United States. country. According to Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson, local governments failed to show that drug companies used misleading advertising to increase unnecessary opioid prescriptions and cause public harm. “There is simply no evidence to show that the increase in prescriptions was not the result of an adequate medical need to provide pain relievers to patients in need,” the magistrate wrote in a ruling of more than 40 pages.
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