Addiction does not happen in a vacuum. There are several reasons why people start to use drugs and major corporations can be partly to blame sometimes. Johnson & Johnson, one of the major pharmaceutical companies in America, was recently charged for being responsible for the widespread addiction to opioids that currently plagues the state of Oklahoma.
Judge Thad Balkman decided that the company should be fined in $572 million. The money will be used to aid people affected by the epidemic. This decision was made because he deemed that the pharmaceutical company intentionally played down how dangerous opioids can be.
Some other companies were also sued by the state. This case only went to court because the pharmaceutical company resisted settling it. Purdue Pharma, the maker of the OxyContin medication, for instance, agreed to pay $270 million and finished its case previously.
Initially, the state wanted to charge the company $17 billion. Despite the final value of the lawsuit being considerably lower than that, this was considered a huge victory.
Brad Beckworth, the lead attorney for the state of Oklahoma, praised the decision. He affirmed that Johnson & Johnson had denied its responsibility in the crisis for over 20 years. The company made billions during this time, so it will have to pay to fix the issues that it has created.
Johnson & Johnson’s vice president Michael Ullmann commented on the case, too. He stated that the company and its subsidiaries did not cause the crisis. However, he recognizes it as a “tremendously complex public health issue” and has “sympathy” for the people who were affected.
The lawyer for Johnson & Johnson, Sabrina Strong, affirmed that the company will appeal to revert the decision. According to her, there are “many strong grounds for appeal”.
A Landmark Decision
This decision was so important because it was the first of its kind. Before now, no pharmaceutical company was held responsible for starting a drug crisis with its products. The state tried to prosecute other corporations before but failed every time. This time, the public nuisance law of the state was used to charge the corporation.
The case is deemed so important, mainly because there are at least 2,000 lawsuits against opioid distributors and makers in the U. S. right now. It is still unclear whether the decision will affect these other cases, but critics of the industry hope that they will.
Gary Mendell, the CEO of Shatterproof, an advocacy group for opioid users, explained that this was a “monumental decision”. According to him, this is a critical step that may revert a path of addiction that was already started.
He and others hope that not only the pharmaceutical companies will be made to pay these fines, but also finance the treatment of the people who were affected. A 2017 study made by the White House pointed out that the treatment of opioid-related issues as underfunded. The same study affirmed that the crisis causes $500 billion in economic losses.
How Johnson & Johnson Contributed to the Opioid Epidemic
Johnson & Johnson’s story with opioids starts in the 80s. At the time, the company was more well-known for products such as Band-Aids, soaps and shampoos for babies than addictive painkillers. In around 30 years, this changed a lot.
Today, the company is the largest supplier for raw opioid materials used to produce painkillers in the United States. It has even created a special opioid drug called Norman, which is used in OxyContin, a painkiller that is famous for being so popular and for having so many people addicted to it.
According to experts heard in the trial, Johnson & Johnson’s products helped to fuel the first wave of the opioid crisis in the United States. On the way to build its empire, Johnson & Johnson used aggressive marketing strategies.
The sales representatives of the company had a very aggressive strategy to push their products forward. They convinced several doctors and large corporations to prescribe opioid-based drugs by offering them financial incentives.
By severely downplaying all the risks associated with the use of opium-based drugs and showcasing them as safe and effective, despite what many studies often proved, they created a big user base. Johnson & Johnson was also accused of paying advocacy groups to lobby to make the drugs more accessible and to encourage its use.
This was closely linked to the growth of the illegal heroin market in the 2000s. Many people used prescription opioids and entered the illegal market as well. These users either wanted to get drugs without needing a prescription or simply a more powerful effect.
The Effects Of Opioid Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Oklahoma had 388 overdose deaths related to opioids in 2017. The numbers are high but lower than some years ago. In 2012, 444 deaths were registered. The decrease in deaths can be attributed to strong policies from the state to tackle the problem more efficiently.
Overdoses are just the worse condition caused by addiction, though. People who use these drugs too often (independently on whether they are prescripted or illegal) can face several symptoms.
Some of the main symptoms include drowsiness, weight loss, decrease in libido, memory issues, depression, anxiety, nausea, constipation and headaches. Another important symptom is the constant craving for the drug, which is the main indicator that addiction has taken over.
Changes in a person’s behavior are also not uncommon. Several users report acute mood swings, problems with socialization in work and family activities. In some cases, a person can display violent behavior as well and even become involved in criminal activities in the most extreme cases.
Have you been affected by the opioid crisis that is currently plaguing the country? If you have any issues with drugs, you may want to look for treatment. Addiction has several consequences that may harm your health and your quality of life, as well as the people around you.
It does not matter how bad the situation gets, it can always get better. It is possible to live a better life and to overcome addiction, but you need to take the first step and seek help.