In a historic decision made on Monday by an Oklahoma judge, Big Pharma company Johnson & Johnson has officially been ordered to pay US$572 million for its role in the South Central US state’s opioid crisis.
Oklahoma’s attorney general originally filed the lawsuit asking for US$17 billion. As such, Jared Holz, a healthcare strategist for Jefferies & Co., said the US$572 million decision made by the judge was a smaller blow than what had been anticipated.
According to the 42-page decision, Judge Thad Balkman claimed the company conducted a deceptive sales campaign that resulted in addiction and a high death count as a result of opioid use.
Judge Balkman said Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries told sales representatives to specifically target health care professionals with a high rate of prescribing opioids, such as pain specialists and primary care physicians.
In doing so, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries devised a marketing tactic that included medical education activities. They also created and funded a group called the National Pain Education Council (NPEC), which aimed to provide continuing medical education (CME) in regards to pain and opioids.
“(The companies’) opioid marketing, in its multitude of forms, was false, deceptive and misleading,” Judge Balkman said in his ruling.
In addition to ambiguous marketing, Judge Balkman said in his ruling that the companies sent representatives into doctors’ offices in Oklahoma to deliver messages that were evasive, provided misleading pamphlets and coupons to patients and doctors and advertised their drugs on the internet in a misleading way.
Balkman further said the companies conducted a campaign that used branded and unbranded marketing that proclaimed pain was being undertreated and there was little to no risk in prescribing opioids. He said unbranded marketing ranged from printed materials that indicated these drugs were a safe and effective form of medication as well as online marketing that promoted the use of opioids.
“Based upon my findings that the (companies’) false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns have caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, I conclude these are unlawful acts which ‘annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health or safety of others’,” Judge Balkman said in the document.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that opioid drugs range from illegal substances such as heroin and fentanyl to prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine.
Between 1999 and 2017, drug-related overdoses resulting in deaths climbed to more than 700,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017 alone, roughly 68 percent of drug overdose deaths were linked to opioids, which is six times higher than it was in 1999. Between 2016 and 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services claims that more than 130 people died everyday from an opioid-related overdose.
In Oklahoma specifically, the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates there were 388 opioid overdose deaths in 2017. According to the organization, this is a rate of 10.2 deaths for every 100,000 people, compared to the national rate of 14.6 deaths for every 100,000 people.
Johnson & Johnson said in a press release on Monday that it will be appealing the decision made in the Cleveland County District Court. The company believes it has a solid case in going forward with an appeal.
According to the company, the decision did not take into consideration Johnson & Johnson’s compliance with federal and state laws or the integral role its products have in patient lives. Johnson & Johnson said that its products, Duragesic, Nucynta and Nucynta ER, totalled less than one percent of opioid prescriptions in Oklahoma and throughout the US.
“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and general counsel at Johnson & Johnson, said in the press release. “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need.”
Despite the harsh ruling made on Monday, shares of Johnson & Johnson were up 1.62 percent from its previous close to US$129.64 as of market close on Tuesday (August 27).
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Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
周一，美国俄克拉荷马州一名法官做出了一项历史性决定，大型制药公司强生公司( Johnson & Johnson )已被正式命令支付5.72亿美元，作为其在美国中南州阿片类药物危机中的角色。
俄克拉何马州的司法部长最初提起诉讼，要求170亿美元。因此，杰富瑞公司（ Jefferies & Co .）的医疗保健策略师贾里德·霍尔兹（ JaredHolz ）说，法官做出的5.72亿美元的判决，比预期的要小。
在此过程中，强生及其子公司设计了包括医学教育活动在内的营销策略。他们还创建并资助了一个名为全国疼痛教育委员会（ NPEC ）的小组，该委员会旨在提供疼痛和阿片类药物方面的继续医学教育（ CME ）。
“基于我的发现，这些（公司）虚假、误导和危险的营销活动导致成瘾率、过量用药死亡和新生儿失禁综合症呈指数增长，我得出结论，这些都是非法行为，它们“骚扰、伤害或危害他人的舒适、休息、健康或安全”。“ Balkman 法官在文件中说。
在俄克拉荷马州，国家药物滥用研究所（ NationalInstituteonDrugAbuse ）特别指出，2017年有388例阿片类药物类药物过量用药死亡。根据该组织的统计，每10万人死亡10.2人，而全国每10万人死亡14.6人。
据该公司称，该决定并未考虑强生公司遵守联邦和州法律的情况，也未考虑其产品在患者生活中的整体作用。强生公司说，它的产品杜拉吉奇，努西莉塔和努西莉塔 ER ，总计不到百分之一的阿片类药物处方在俄克拉荷马州和整个美国。
强生执行副总裁兼总法律顾问迈克尔•乌尔曼( Michael Ullmann )在新闻稿中表示：“詹森并未在俄克拉荷马州引发阿片类药物类危机，事实和法律都不支持这一结果。”“我们认识到，阿片类药物危机是一个极其复杂的公共卫生问题，我们对所有受影响的人都深表同情。我们正与合作伙伴合作，寻找方法帮助那些有需要的人。”
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证券披露：我， JocelynAspa ，没有在本文提到的任何公司直接投资权益。