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The Cost of the Opioid Epidemic



The Primary: An Oklahoma Judge finds that Johnson & Johnson, a company responsible for opioid manufacturing among other enterprises, intentionally pushed the positive and downplayed the negative effects of opioids. The judge orders the company to pay the state $572 million.

  • Who? What? Why?: The case is the first in which a drug manufacturer has been punished for the damages of the opioid epidemic. While attorneys for the company argued the sale of opioids was done legally, Oklahoma prosecutors argued that next to Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson was a key opioid “kingpin.”

  • The Baseline: There are currently more than 2,000 related opioid lawsuits launched in the U.S. and prosecutors of these cases hope the Oklahoma decision is a sign of a reckoning to come. However, Oklahoma attorneys are frustrated with the $572 million punishment, as they argue $17 billion would more accurately cover the damages.

  • From the Left: Noah Feldman of Bloomberg ponders the translation of public health outcry into effective litigation. Finding the argument made by Oklahoma prosecutors flimsy, Feldman argues the nation needs to find a better solution, as the process of having big companies fork over money ultimately amounts to a charade.

  • From the Right: The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal believes the decision is a pacifier for outraged Americans, but could have larger, more problematic legal repercussions given its loose interpretation of the law.

  • Go Deeper: NPR reports that other companies are big pharma companies are considering settlements following the Johnson & Johnson suit.

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