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US Johnson & Johnson ruling

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US opioid crisis ruling leads to $845 million fine for drug maker Johnson & Johnson in Oklahoma

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Generic photo of pills.
IMAGEAn Oklahoma judge has told Johnson & Johnson to clean up the state's opioid crisis.(Giulio Saggin, File Photo: ABC News)

A US state judge has found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel Oklahoma's opioid crisis, ordering the consumer products giant to pay $US572 million ($844 million) to clean up the problem.

Key points:

  • The Attorney-General said Johnson & Johnson was a "kingpin" motivated by "greed"
  • The Oklahoma judge said the company understated the drugs' addiction risk
  • Opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017

Johnson & Johnson has a contract with poppy growers in Tasmania who produce a lot of the raw opium used to make the company's drugs.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman's ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal US judge in Ohio.

"The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma," Mr Balkman said before announcing the verdict. "It must be abated immediately."

The companies are expected to appeal against the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court with one of its lawyer, Sabrina Strong, calling the judge's decision "flawed".

Judge Thad Balkman arrives to give his decision in the opioid lawsuit involving Johnson & Johnson.
IMAGEJudge Thad Balkman arrives to give his decision in the Opioid Lawsuit in Norman.(Pool Via AP: Sue Ogrocki)

Before Oklahoma's trial began on May 28, Oklahoma reached settlements with two other defendant groups — a $US270 million ($398.5 million) deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharmaand an $US85 million ($125 million) settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a public nuisance by launching an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction.

Oklahoma Attorney-General Mike Hunter said opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017.

He specifically pointed to two former Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, which produced much of the raw opium used by other manufacturers to produce the drugs. Tasmanian Alkaloids is Australia's largest processing company for opium poppy.

"[Johnson & Johnson] have been the principal origin for the active pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription opioids in the country for the last two decades," Mr Hunter said after the trial ended July 15.

"It is one of the most important elements of causation with regard to why the defendants … are responsible for the epidemic in the country and in Oklahoma."

'This entire crisis began in Tasmania and New Jersey'

Brad Beckworth — one of the state's lawyers — said Johnson & Johnson underestimated his team.

"We know that the root of this entire crisis began in Tasmania and New Jersey with Johnson & Johnson," Mr Beckworth said.

"And they can't laugh anymore, they can't call this case baseless anymore."

Lawyers for the company have maintained they were part of a lawful and heavily regulated industry subject to strict FedExral oversight, including the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, during every step of the supply chain.

Lead lawyer Larry Ottaway said during closing arguments that opioid drugs serve a critical health need — to address chronic pain that affects thousands of Oklahomans every day.

Oklahoma pursued the case under the state's public nuisance statute and presented the judge with a plan to abate the crisis that would cost between $US12.6 billion ($18.6 billion) for 20 years and $US17.5 billion ($25.8 billion) over 30 years.

Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson have said that estimate is wildly inflated.

Also on Monday, the Kentucky Supreme Court declined to review an earlier ruling, making previously secret testimony from former Purdue Pharma president Rickard Sackler and other documents public.

The court record was sealed in 2015 as part of a $US24 million ($35.4 million) settlement between Purdue and Kentucky.

The 17 million pages of documents were being shipped on Monday from Frankfort to Pike County, where the case originated. The Pike County Circuit Court Clerk's office could not immediately say how and when they would be available.

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.abc.net.au/article/11451758

 

 

*shakes head*

FFS

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Trying to shift the blame to Tasmanian poppy growers? Lmao they just grew the shit for money. It’s hardly their fault it was aggressively and falsely marketed leading to the oxy crisis etc. laughable. 

 

Its about time they take responsibility for the damage they’ve done imo. Big Pharma can’t keep getting free passes just because they’re rich 

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2 hours ago, Caster said:

Big Pharma can’t keep getting free passes just because they’re rich 

Sadly, history shows that the rich always get away with it because they are rich.

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I've reflected on this, and I don't think the growers can absolve themselves completely of all responsibility. It's a little too convenient to just say "oh, we only grow the poppies that are really only useful for producing the key ingredients fuelling the opioid crisis, what happens to them after we sold them is none of our concern".

I'm sure that Tasmanian Alkaloids were all too happy to continue profiting as long as nobody pointed a finger of blame in their direction.

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But I guess that's economics hey?

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4 hours ago, Glaukus said:

I've reflected on this, and I don't think the growers can absolve themselves completely of all responsibility. It's a little too convenient to just say "oh, we only grow the poppies that are really only useful for producing the key ingredients fuelling the opioid crisis, what happens to them after we sold them is none of our concern".

I'm sure that Tasmanian Alkaloids were all too happy to continue profiting as long as nobody pointed a finger of blame in their direction.

I agree. They kept growing very well knowing what they were contributing to, although that doesn’t take away the fact there is also legitimate use for these drugs, which are actually needed by many people. 

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School pickup...I've got a different bent:wink: 

Legit commodity with essential usages.

 

That would mean a hops grower or viticulturalist can be accountable for an alcoholics death, or sugar cane grower for someone who smashed sugar to type 2 diabetes as loose examples if I apply that sorta logic. 

 

Personal accountability appears to have disappeared In this increasingly fucked up world.... 

 

The diversion to illicit narcotics came after prescription, an example is this doc prescribing 17,000 oxy tabs over a 7 month period to one patient:huh: this tale is one of many. 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jailed-doctor-barry-schultz-interview-opioid-epidemic-60-minutes-2019-08-25/#

 

No one can claim that is legitimate use:wink:

 

Bloody regulation should have stopped that shit.. They are supposed to be the gatekeepers ... Thankfully Aus has "better" control, although there is always some diversion. Once a month my doc has to state my case to the regulators for "narcotic" medication ... And there has been plenty of challenges. 

 

Now in the US in the lead up to the finger pointing and absolving themselves, there have been cancer patients, and a myriad of chronic conditions needing narcotic medications that have been cut off with docs refusing prescribing. Sadly a heap went illicit and onto heroin and fent (some kratom) as an alternative medication rather than "recreational". This is when the shit really started to hit and a lot of these folk are amongst the numbers of the fallen. 

 

The broken medical system and piss poor regulation facilitated it, and the outcomes are a sign of a society seriously struggling whilst trying to keep up appearances.  

 

There is ramifications for us here, and even more so developing countries that need greater access is to come . It is also going to put a hold on other drugs that are not narcotic with promise being derived from poppies being dropped from development. 

 

It's not just Americans that are supplied by the fields:wink: although they are looking like they can't be trusted with them.... 

 

Edited by waterboy 2.0
Vit not vut
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I read a quote by one of these people thst they were against regulation as that would decrease abuse potential and thus profits. Im sure they'd sell it at the supermarket like candy if they could (im sure id buy it if it was)

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i'm with you WB - I hate having to get a script simply for codeine and pay nearly 3 times as much (not including the doc visit to get and repeat the script) - all the while with the added stigma of having to keep asking for an "addictive substance"...  My needs are legit and I (think I) can manage the addictive nature just fine. Worse: I'm pretty sure my doc now thinks opioids are bad... here try this lyrica...

 

I also don't think it should be anyone's surprise that an opium derivative (whichever one) could be addictive.  And to expect a multinational corporation to have a social conscience?  That story seems a beat up to me designed to keep up the mantra that all opiates are bad and at the same time rake in some money to the federal coffers.

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In the industry I work in there's a thing called "chain of responsibility". Every link in the chain is accountable.

I get that everyone has to take personal responsibility and I also hate that our goobermint has come in over the top and banned otc codeine etc.

But to say that the growers are completely blameless, when they know they are growing varieties that are really only useful for producing thebaine, is like coal miners arguing that they only dig up the coal, and aren't responsible for any part in man made climate change.

I know it's how economics works. "If I don't grow it, someone else will anyway because there's money to be made".

What to do, what to do?

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Hmm.  Consider this:

 

If someone gifted me some mushrooms and I had, heaven forbid, a bad trip would they somehow bear responsibility?  What about if I purchased said mushrooms instead - does that change it? 

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5 minutes ago, SayN said:

Hmm.  Consider this:

 

If someone gifted me some mushrooms and I had, heaven forbid, a bad trip would they somehow bear responsibility?  What about if I purchased said mushrooms instead - does that change it? 

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make by distinguishing between sale and gift, and I'm not so sure that a bad trip is on par with death by accidental overdose.

Either way, say you died during that trip. Would you say that whoever supplied them played a part, no matter how small? Of course they did. Was it intentional? Of course not.

I'm not taking personal responsibility out of the matter at all. The decision to eat them was yours after all. But...would you have died in this situation had someone not given/sold them to you?

Therefore they played a role in your death. 

 

"Personal accountability appears to have disappeared In this increasingly fucked up world" 

Cuts both ways. Yes, there have been too many points of failure along this entire chain of responsibility, and I wasn't trying to say that the growers are entirely the cause of the problem. As I said already, I know economics dictates that if the Tassie growers didn't grow them, someone else would. It's the law of supply and demand writ large.

Does this make my statement applicable to hop growers and sugarcane farmers? Hmm, if we take the logic to it's conclusion, then I suppose, maybe yes, to some degree. I guess it's probbaly a much longer trajectory though to die from diabetes than from a fentanyl overdose, so it's harder to see the dotted lines joining the cause and effect. But I would still say the lines are there.

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I think what I am trying to say is that economics is to blame. 

It's hyper hypocrisy for us to be burning poppy fields in Afghanistan because "drugs are bad, mmkay", while at the same time we incentivise and protect poppy growing on a far greater scale in our own backyard. Remember, heroin was once marketed as a safe non-addictive alternative to morphine.

Clearly the pharma companies and the doctors in their pocket can't be trusted, and knowing this, would you willingly support them by providing the resource to continue business as usual?

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On 04/09/2019 at 6:49 PM, SayN said:

i'm with you WB - I hate having to get a script simply for codeine and pay nearly 3 times as much (not including the doc visit to get and repeat the script) - all the while with the added stigma of having to keep asking for an "addictive substance"...  My needs are legit and I (think I) can manage the addictive nature just fine. Worse: I'm pretty sure my doc now thinks opioids are bad... here try this lyrica...

 

I also don't think it should be anyone's surprise that an opium derivative (whichever one) could be addictive.  And to expect a multinational corporation to have a social conscience?  That story seems a beat up to me designed to keep up the mantra that all opiates are bad and at the same time rake in some money to the federal coffers.

Ultimately this ruling will most likely be bad for people and doctors who didn’t do the wrong thing. Making them harder to get or prescribe, it’s quite sad really because the ones that will suffer the consequence will be the ones who want to use it legitimately. 

 

Like whats happened to codine. Lots of people need this over the counter but cant get it now due to others abusing it. It’s a complicated situation with many people to blame. We need to improve the system instead 

Edited by Caster
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5 hours ago, Glaukus said:

I think what I am trying to say is that economics is to blame. 

It's hyper hypocrisy for us to be burning poppy fields in Afghanistan because "drugs are bad, mmkay", while at the same time we incentivise and protect poppy growing on a far greater scale in our own backyard. Remember, heroin was once marketed as a safe non-addictive alternative to morphine.

Clearly the pharma companies and the doctors in their pocket can't be trusted, and knowing this, would you willingly support them by providing the resource to continue business as usual?

 

I've seen the Afghan poppy fields, and maybe they burn them for the camera every now and then but the only thing I saw happening was special ops guys with beards and silencers patrolling and protecting those fields all the while everyone else is being fed the lie that part of the mission was to eradicate them. 

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11 hours ago, Glaukus said:

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make...

 

I think I was trying to say that I think personal responsibility is 100% of the law.  And I think there is a difference between role and responsibility...  In your coal miner analogy I think they play a role, sure, but they don't need to bear any responsibility for climate change because I'm the one that uses the power.  Yes folks, I'm part of the problem.

 

I dunno man.  You know me (a little).  I don't take myself or what I say too seriously and neither should anyone here, nor do I claim to know the answers, but I do like a good discussion.  :)

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9 minutes ago, SayN said:

 

I think I was trying to say that I think personal responsibility is 100% of the law.  And I think there is a difference between role and responsibility...  In your coal miner analogy I think they play a role, sure, but they don't need to bear any responsibility for climate change because I'm the one that uses the power.  Yes folks, I'm part of the problem.

 

I dunno man.  You know me (a little).  I don't take myself or what I say too seriously and neither should anyone here, nor do I claim to know the answers, but I do like a good discussion.  :)

Me too man, and I like that we can all state our opinions without resorting to trash talk that I see happen all too often. After all, opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one, but there's no need to parade them at every opportunity!

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