Will it be enough? The State of Oklahoma and Attorney General Mike Hunter successfully prosecuted drug manufacturers. It’s a win for Oklahoma, but it’s hard to say if the monetary damages are in line with the kind of pain and suffering the opioid epidemic has solved.
Hunter had said during the earlier cases that part of the settling when he did was based on the fact that other states will want their share. It was better to get what we could when we could before class action suits got to the money. These companies make billions a year. The lawsuits are unlikely to lead to bankruptcy.
Johnson & Johnson’s $572 million will be added to two settlements that added up to $355 million; so the total tally falls short of a billion. It’s a lot of money, but because of the way it’s earmarked for specific uses, the state may not have the ability to convert it to a kind of trust like TSET.
Johnson & Johnson wasted no time appealing. They can afford it. Our hope is that higher courts will find manufacturers as culpable as Judge Thad Balkman did. Why shouldn’t they? Johnson & Johnson will argue that, unlike tobacco, opioids alone are not a public nuisance. What about deceptively marketing them and pushing salespeople to lie about addiction?
Writing for CNN.com, Oklahoma State University assistant professor Holly Karibo summed it up pretty well, that the judgment “proves what to many of us seemed overtly apparent: that corporate profits outweighed the concern for consumers’ well-being in the supply and marketing of opioids.”
The oddity is how many people seem to want to side with the corporations, or at least find more blame in the addicts than the pushers. We agree that many more are responsible than are being punished. There were unscrupulous doctors, unscrupulous pharmacists and unscrupulous distributors. There’s plenty of blame to share. They should all pay for this epidemic. If not criminally, then through their wallets since greed was the driving force through all of it.