Pharmaceuticals take fall for opioid crisis

  Pharmaceutical companies are being charged with the death of millions. On August 26, the state of Oklahoma sued Johnson and Johnson in the first ever state-proposed case against a big-name pharmaceutical company. And they won.   

  Judge Thad Balkman has “ripped the Band-Aid off” of Johnson and Johnson for the general public. Known by many as a producer of baby goods, the company is also a primary supplier of prescription opioid oxycontin. 

  A main concern of Balkman’s was the company’s advertising for the opioid side of things. Oklahoma’s original $17 billion dollar lawsuit intended to repay the state for breaching a public nuisance law as well as for producing “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” that have caused consumers to overdose and even die from opioids, according to The New York Times

  These campaigns portrayed opioids as less dangerous and addictive than they actually are, and increased the rate of prescription from doctors across the country. The final ruling, however, billed Johnson and Johnson $572 million for the damage done to the state, as the multi-billion dollar corporation was able to argue the number down during the trial.   

  The opioid crisis is not a new phenomenon. Since the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies have dismissed public worry about opioid pain-relievers regarding their addictive nature, creating greater prescription and distribution rates. 

According to CNN, opioids bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord to disrupt pain signals, but they also produce dopamine, giving the user a “euphoric high” and making them highly addictive. The expansive usage of opioids in America has resulted in an elevated rate of opioid overdose and ultimately of opioid-based death. 

  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 47,600 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017. That number continues to rise as the coined “opioid crisis” escalates. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 130 people in the U.S. die every day from an opioid overdose as of January 2019. By reducing the fear factor in their advertising, pharmaceutical companies like Johnson and Johnson have significantly contributed to this public health crisis. 

  This begs the question: who is at fault for the opioid crisis? The result of this court case may point a finger at the pharmaceutical industry in the near future.