The Oklahoma State Supreme Court in the US has overturned a 2019 judgement that had ruled Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies accountable for contributing to the opioid crisis.
The ruling was overturned after concluding that a lower court incorrectly construed the public nuisance law of Oklahoma.
This is reported to be the first case of its type to go for a trial in the US.
In the latest release, justice James Winchester noted: “We hold that the district court’s expansion of public nuisance law went too far.
“Oklahoma public nuisance law does not extend to the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of prescription opioids.”
Oklahoma state filed a lawsuit against three opioid manufacturers, J&J, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, on 30 June 2017 claiming that the companies falsely marketed opioids in the state.
According to the Oklahoma state statistics, over 4,600 people in the state died from 2007 to 2017 due to overdoses of opioids, including prescription and illegal versions. Since 2000, opioids are also linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US.
In August 2019, the Cleveland County District Court in Oklahoma, US, ordered the company to pay $572m.
Judge Thad Balkman had in 2019 ruled that the company created a public nuisance through a misleading promotion of its addictive pain drugs.
In September 2019, the company appealed against the judgment and months later, the $572m award was reduced to $465m.
In the latest press statement, J&J said: “The judgment disregards the company’s compliance with federal and state laws, the unique role its medicines play in the lives of the people who need them, its responsible marketing practices and that since launch, Duragesic, Nucynta and Nucynta ER have accounted for less than one per cent of total opioid prescriptions in Oklahoma as well as the US.”
The company is currently not marketing prescription opioid drugs in the US.
J&J entered a $297m settlement agreement with the Texas state last month to settle opioid claims.