Sep 2, 2019
An Oklahoma judge fined Johnson & Johnson, the giant drug maker, 572 million dollars for its role in pushing highly addictive painkillers, known as opioids, on the state’s population.
As soon as the judge’s decision was announced, Johnson & Johnson stock went up – by 1.4 percent at the end of the day, on a day when the market itself went down. Stocks of other opioid companies went up as well.
That’s because the fine, 572 million dollars, amounts to only about two weeks of profits for Johnson & Johnson, which made more than 15 billion dollars in profit last year alone. And this fine is only a fraction of the 17 billion dollars the state of Oklahoma said would be required to deal with the consequences of the devastating opioid epidemic for decades to come.
In Oklahoma alone, about 6,000 people are known to have died from opioid overdoses since 2000. And the rate of addiction is increasing, along with the number of deaths. In the U.S. overall, 47,600 deaths were attributed to opioids in 2017, up from about 17,000 in 2000.
The judge, Thad Balkman, said that Johnson & Johnson and other companies intentionally misled doctors and other medical professionals to flood Oklahoma with more than 326 million opioid pills, or 110 pills for every adult in the state in 2015. He wrote that Johnson & Johnson had run “false and dangerous marketing campaigns, which caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths.”
But then, this same judge turned around and announced a fine which, he said, would allow Oklahoma to fight the opioid epidemic for just one year!
This is all we can expect from a court system that is at the beck and call of big capital.