CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On the wake of an Oklahoma judge ruling Johnson & Johnson must pay the state $572 million in connection with the opioid crisis, a Yale Law School professor says the verdict will impact similar cases around the country.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled the drug manufacturer and its subsidiaries misled others about its products through marketing and promotion efforts, creating a public nuisance.
Abbe Gluck, the facility director of the Yale Law School’s Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy, said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” cases are shifting away from pharmacies and “pill mills” and are being directed at manufacturers and international drug corporations.
“There’s a huge crisis and there needs to be a payout,” she said. “Suing individual doctors, while there will continue to be licensing and local action, is not going to get states the kind of widespread financial relief that they need.”
Gluck said states have difficult definitions of public nuisance — noting such charges do not necessarily require a direct causal link — but Balkman’s point on Johnson & Johnson’s marketing is important regardless of one’s state.
“To go and say actually these defendants who we saw previously were middlemen may have purposefully deceived, that changes the atmosphere. It is a finding that will be very important going forward,” she said.
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyCotin, announced Tuesday it is willing to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits put forward by states, cities and counties for the company’s alleged role in the opioid crisis. The company is willing to settle for a total of between $10 billion and $12 billion.
A federal judge in Cleveland is considering the lawsuit.
Gluck said investigations continue with each party, which has its own documents and findings.
“Throughout the summer, they’ve been in negotiations about a structure that could it to settlement,” she said of the Purdue Pharma lawsuit. “You do not send defendants like Johnson & Johnson or the other manufacturers or distributors saying in public in Ohio, ‘No, we’re not settling.'”
“To some extent, this idea of culpability, it’s important from the Oklahoma case. All along in Ohio, the judge has made it clear he’s not letting what you might call the intermediary defendants out of the case.”
According to NBC News, the company also presented a plan to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring as a for-profit “public benefit trust.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced in May the state’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.