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Judge Holds J&J Liable for $572 Million in Oklahoma Opioid Suit; Shares Grow

An Oklahoma judge on Monday asked Johnson & Johnson to pay $572.1 million to the state for its part in feeding an opioid plague by deceptively advertising and marketing addictive painkillers, a total that was considerably less than traders had expected, driving up J&J’s shares.

The state’s attorney general had filed the case, seeking $17 billion to address the impact of the drug crisis on Oklahoma. It had been considered a bellwether for different instance nationwide over the opioid plague.

J&J shares were up 2% in extended trading after the decision, following a preliminary gain of over 5%. Other drug producers that sell opioid painkillers and are defending in opposition to similar cases also advanced after-hours, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries up 2.6%, and Endo International, up 1.4% higher.

Opioids were involved in nearly 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).  Since 2000, around 6,000 Oklahomans have died from opioid overtreatments, in line with the state’s lawyers.

Roughly 2,500 cases have been brought by states, counties, and municipalities nationally seeking to hold drug producers liable for opioid harm across the nation. Oklahoma’s lawsuit was the first to go for hearing. Some drug companies have chosen to settle suits.

In holding J&J responsible after a seven-week, non-jury hearing, Judge Balkman of Cleveland County District Court in Norman, said the state showed that J&J’s misleading advertising and promotion of its Duragesic and Nucynta painkillers developed a public nuisance.

Oklahoma required J&J to help it address the plague for the subsequent three decades by funding addiction therapy and prevention programs.

Balkman said in his written judgment that the award covered only one year of addressing the crisis since Oklahoma didn’t reveal the time and costs required past that.

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