Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed suit in 2017, alleging several drug companies created a “public nuisance” through deceptive marketing that encouraged over-prescription and an oversupply of opioid-laced medications which created an epidemic of abuse. Hunter has said that Johnson and Johnson has acted like a “drug kingpin.”

Purdue Pharma, the company behind the painkiller OxyContin, and drug manufacturer Teva have already settled with Oklahoma. Both companies agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the state to fund addiction treatment. The trial is now ongoing with Johnson & Johnson left as the sole defendant.

Motherjones.com reports:

“Some allegations presented in the first two weeks of the trial resemble those of other high-profile opioid cases: that Johnson and Johnson oversold its own opioid products, Nucynta and Duragesic, by targeting high-volume prescribers, paying key opinion leaders, funding pain patient advocacy groups, and generally promoting the idea that opioids were safe and effective for chronic pain.” 

Johnson and Johnson’s billion-dollar Nucynta and Duragesic drugs were pushed alongside OxyContin. Internal court documents show Janssen, part of Johnson and Johnson, targeted doctors with a track record of prescribing large amounts of OxyContin in an effort to switch them to Duragesic.

However, Johnson & Johnson’s role in opioid crisis may be worse than Purdue’s. Oklahoma has alleged that two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, Tasmanian Alkaloids and Noramco, “created, grew, imported and supplied to J&J and its other co-conspirators, including Purdue, the narcotic raw materials necessary to manufacture the opioid pain medications thrust upon the unsuspecting public since the 1990s.”

WGNO.com reports:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, made the comments during the 11th day of the historic trial in Oklahoma that is aimed at holding Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries responsible for the state’s opioid epidemic.

“Until I had an opportunity to review discovery documents,” Kolodny testified, “I really was not aware of how bad Johnson & Johnson was.”

Kolodny said Johnson & Johnson differentiated itself from other drug makers because it played a part in all three types of opioids: natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic.

The trial is expected to extend throughout the summer. Stay tuned for more updates.