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Can States Make Drug Companies Pay For The Opioid Crisis?

The prescription medicine OxyContin is manufactured by Purdue Pharma LP.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images
The prescription medicine OxyContin is manufactured by Purdue Pharma LP.

The attorney general of Oklahoma goes to court in an unprecedented case this week.

The state is charging drugmaker Johnson & Johnson with “a cynical, deceitful multimillion dollar brainwashing campaign” in order to sell opioids, according to The Guardian..

The civil case is the first time a pharmaceutical company has gone to court over responsibility for the opioid epidemic. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 130 people died every day in 2017 due to opioid-related causes.

The case comes amid another landmark lawsuit filed in March against Purdue Pharma LP, the company behind the narcotic OxyContin. “More than 600 cities, counties and Native American tribes from 28 states have filed a federal lawsuit against eight members of the Sackler family,” CNN reported. The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma.

More from CNN:

Like other suits that have been filed, this one alleges the Sackler family made a fortune by using deceptive marketing to sell addictive and potentially deadly painkillers.

“Eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic,” the suit says, then naming the eight defendants.

“Because they controlled their own privately held drug company, the Sackler Defendants had the power to decide how addictive narcotics were sold. They got more patients on opioids, at higher doses, for longer, than ever before. They paid themselves billions of dollars. They are responsible for addiction, overdose, and death that damaged millions of lives. They should be held accountable now.”

We reached out to Johnson & Johnson, and John Sparks, Oklahoma counsel for Janssen* Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson told us this:

Opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues. What’s important in this trial is that the evidence takes center stage. The State hasn’t even tried to show that the Company’s products are a cause of the crisis. We look forward to presenting our case.

What would justice look like for those who have been affected by the opioid epidemic? Who is to blame for the crisis?

Produced by Jonquilyn Hill.


Jackie Fortier, Senior health care reporter, StateImpact Oklahoma; @JackieFortier

Katie Zezima, National reporter, The Washington Post; @katiezez

Brian Frosh, Attorney General, Maryland; @BrianFrosh

Tom Miller, Attorney General, Iowa; @AGIowa

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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