Following the landmark ruling in Oklahoma on Monday against Johnson & Johnson that found the company responsible for helping fuel the opioid epidemic, U.S. drug czar James Carroll called out drugmakers for their role as "one of the factors into the start of the crisis."
“The pharmaceutical companies have had a role to play in this, we know that the data supports it,” Carroll, the director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, told Fox News. “The facts show that these companies pushed some of these medications out to people and this was one of the factors into the start of this crisis.”
Oklahoma Judge Thad Balkman found Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, responsible for stoking the opioid epidemic. He ordered the company to pay the state $572 million for breaching the state's “public nuisance” law.
The precedent-setting decision could lay the groundwork for the 1,500 other pending suits waiting to be heard before a federal judge in Ohio in October. Carroll said he believed this was just the beginning.
Johnson & Johnson was recently found responsible for stoking the opioid epidemic by a judge in Oklahoma. (iStock)
“There are hundreds of litigations going on across the country and I do think this will send a message across the states,” he told Fox News, adding that he’s “happy to see the money is going to be going to some of the people who have really been impacted.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter argued Johnson & Johnson conducted an intensive marketing campaign that flooded the market and misled consumers about the addictive risks of the drug, calling the company “the kingpin behind the nation's ongoing opioid crisis.”
"We have proven that Johnson and Johnson built its billion-dollar brand out of greed and on the backs of pain and suffering of innocent people,” he added.
Hunter was seeking $17 billion from Johnson & Johnson to cover treatment and prevention programs.
Sabrina Strong, an attorney for Johnson & Johnson, called the judge’s ruling “flawed.” The company argued that its drugs only represented about 1 percent of the opioid market.
"I think the nation's opioid abuse crisis is a serious public health issue. Nobody disputes that. But you can't sue your way out of the opioid abuse crisis," Strong said in a press conference. "This is a problem that faces the country that must be addressed by public and private partnerships by all state stakeholders."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for over 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017. Of 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017, nearly 68 percent involved opioids.
Johnson & Johnson vowed to appeal the decision.
Fox Business Network’s Rachel Tesler and Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera contributed to this report.