Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $572m (£467m) in compensation over its role in fueling Oklahoma’s opioid crisis by deceptively marketing addictive painkillers, a US court has ruled.
Judge Thad Balkman ruled after a seven-week trial that the pharmaceutical giant had run a “false and dangerous” marketing campaign that fueled America’s opioid epidemic.
“The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans,” Balkman said.
Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, had sought $17bn from the drugmaker in the lawsuit, and the amount Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay was substantially lower than investors had expected.
The case was the first of thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors to go to trial.
Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the ruling. “You can’t sue your way out of the opioid abuse crisis,” Sabrina Strong, a lawyer for the company said at a news conference after the verdict.
“Everyone must come together to address this. But J&J did not cause the opioid crisis,” she added.
Oklahoma’s attorney general had settled with Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical earlier in the year, for $270m and $85m respectively, leaving Johnson & Johnson as the case’s sole defenant.
According to the state’s lawyers, 6,000 people in Oklahoma have died from opioid overdoes since 2000.
Opioids were involved in almost 400,000 overdose deaths between 1999 and 2017, according US Centre for Disease Control figures.
Johnson & Johnson shares were trading 3.24 per cent up at $131.94 by 4pm UK time.
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