Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has to pay 572 million dollars (around 515 million euros) because of the opiate crisis in the United States. A judge in Oklahoma held the company responsible on Monday for bringing heavy, addictive painkillers to the market.
The prosecutor of Oklahoma had demanded more than 17 billion dollars. With the money, Johnson & Johnson must help the state to finally tackle the addiction epidemic in the US.
Prosecutor Mike Hunt accused the pharmacist of "conducting a cynical and deceptive brainwashing campaign" to promote opiates as a "magic drug." The judge agreed with Hunt that Johnson & Johnson is contributing to drug addiction in the US.
Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from painkillers overdoses. Of those, about six thousand were in Oklahoma, the prosecutors said. Johnson & Johnson is the first pharmaceutical company to be tried for its role in the opiate crisis.
Johnson & Johnson immediately appeals
J&J, one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical companies in the world, immediately announced an appeal against the ruling. On Wall Street, J&J's course was on the rise after the closing because the fine was considerably lower than expected.
The prosecutors reached settlements around the opiate issue earlier this year with two other pharmaceutical companies, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Then it was 270 million dollars and 85 million dollars respectively. After that J&J was the only party left.
The judge's decision in Oklahoma serves as a gauge for a lawsuit that takes place in October in Ohio. In that state, two thousand lawsuits are pending, brought by various governments against drug companies involved in the production and distribution of opiates.
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