Norman, OK ( – It’s now up to an Oklahoma judge to decide whether Johnson & Johnson is responsible for widespread opioid addiction and overdoses in the state. Prosecutors yesterday urged the judge to make the company pay $17.5 billion dollars to deal with the epidemic.

The 7-week trial before judge Thad Balkman ended with closing arguments. A decision is expected sometime late next month and could portend the outcomes of almost 2,000 other pending cases throughout the country.

Oklahoma had previously settled with two other defendants in the lawsuit; OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for $270 million, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries for $85 million. In May, a North Dakota case threw out a government lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.

A big case coming up in October is the consolidated lawsuit in an Ohio federal court by more than 1,900 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other organizations against the drug industry. Also in Ohio, two counties are suing in trials set to begin in the Fall.

In the just concluded Oklahoma trial the plaintiffs argued Johnson & Johnson created a ‘public nuisance’ and must help alleviate the damage. The company has argued that the evidence presented bears no resemblance to any public nuisance theory recognized previously in Oklahoma.

The state’s main argument was that the company exaggerated the safety and effectiveness of opioid products and downplayed the risks to patients. The company’s lawyers said it could not be held accountable for selling legal products approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration. They also disputed state contentions that sales representatives lied to physicians to sell the drugs and that without the medications many residents would have suffered debilitating pain.


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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