Johnson and Johnson, one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers, recently came under fire for promoting the ‘opioid epidemic’.
Prosecutors have accused Johnson & Johnson for misleading the public by deceptively marketing their painkillers while completely downplaying its negative dependence traits. The company is now on trial in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit by the Oklahoma state of US.
In its court filing, Oklahoma alleged that Johnson & Johnson was the “kingpin” behind “the worst man-made public health crisis in [the] state’s history,” growing and importing raw materials which other drug-makers used for their own products.
Johnson & Johnson has denied the allegations while claiming that all their marketing strategies are designed with care and responsibility.
The state alleged that Johnson & Johnson along with Purdue Pharma – which produces the prescription painkiller OxyContin – and Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals had convinced doctors to prescribe more opioids in the 1990s by using misleading marketing.
Johnson & Johnson was accused of doing so by marketing opioids as “safe and effective for everyday pain” but downplayed addictive qualities, thus creating a drug oversupply.
On average, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2017, of the 70,200 people who died from an overdose, 68% involved a prescription or illegal opioid.
The state argues that Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance which will cost between $12.7bn (£10.02bn) and $17.5bn (£13.8bn) to remedy over the next 20 to 30 years.
But the company argues that the public nuisance law does not apply in this instance.
Johnson & Johnson – probably best known for its baby shampoo and baby powder – produces a fentanyl patch which can be prescribed for severe pain.
Fentanyl belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid analgesics, which change how the body feels and responds to pain. It is also used as a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin and cocaine.
Because of its high profit margin for traffickers, fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.
The latest legal case is the latest in a string against painkiller manufacturers over prescription drugs.