Oklahoma’s crusade against the opioid epidemic has uncovered new information about the alleged unethical practices of opioid manufacturers.
The latest lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson seeks $13 billion in damages the state claims to have incurred while dealing with the “societal fallout” of the opioid epidemic.
Testimony from the ongoing trial revealed last week that the manufacturer continued to reap large benefits from their subsidiaries even as the opioid epidemic reached fever pitch.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, was requested by the state of Oklahoma to speak on his knowledge of Johnson & Johnson’s actions.
According to Bloomberg, Kolodny testified in the trial’s third week that J&J “did everything it possibly could to get doctors to prescribe more and more opioids.”
In addition, the trial revealed that Johnson & Johnson owned the Australian poppy cultivation company, Tasmanian Alkaloids, which developed the Norman poppy. According to Mother Jones, this plant strain contains high amounts of thebaine, an opiate used as a starting point in many painkillers.
In 1995, Purdue Pharma relied largely on Johnson and Johnson’s thebaine supply when they released and launched OxyContin, igniting the flames of today’s opioid epidemic.
Johnson & Johnson has also benefited largely from its subsidiary Naramco – one of the nation’s top suppliers of opioids.
By 2016, Johnson and Johnson sold Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids to a private investment firm, but J&J’s role in and consequent profit from the supply, distribution, and success of the two companies is evident.
The legal team for Johnson & Johnson persistently claims that their Duragesic pain patch and its Nucynta opioid painkiller were marketed and sold legally and therefore cannot be held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.
The plaintiffs argue that the risks of these products were vastly understated and that J&J violated federal laws by making head-to-head comparisons of Duragesic’s advantages over Purdue’s Oxycontin.
The ongoing trial is the first of nearly 1,900 federal and state cases nationwide against opioid makers who may be charged for inciting such a devastating and costly public health crisis.
Though the best estimates place the length of this trial at between two and three months, other opioid manufacturers such as Purdue Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals have already settled in Oklahoma for millions of dollars.