Johnson & Johnson Opioid Crisis: How Misleading Titles Lead to an Epidemic

Jenna Sakhleh - Teen Aspect - June 3rd, 2022
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In 2019, Johnson and Johnson overproduced an opioid manufacturing corporation that would later inflict the deadliest epidemic ever seen. Johnson and Johnson, a pharmaceutical industry company, is best known for producing health care products such as medical devices, skin/hair products, and pharmaceuticals. The false advertisement of medications would put Johnson and Johnson as one of the largest verdicts.

Johnson and Johnson were sued on the means of downplaying the dangers of opioids tied with false advertisement, mainly in the state of Oklahoma. The ingredients included 60% of opiates containing morphine and codeine used in opioids like oxycodone. These opioids consisted of hydrocodone and buprenorphine, ultimately contributing to drug addiction. Johnson and Johnson would aggressively market these opioids to doctors prescribing them to patients under numerous accounts. These substances were promoted to alleviate pain and have a low potential for abuse and drug addiction.

The Consequences

In total, Johnson and Johnson committed criminal fines and fraud totaling $485 million in civil settlements. This civil settlement argues the false claims about opioid use, which tragically took the lives of thousands of civilians. Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson and Johnson cared more for the company's beneficiaries than the lives they killed or led to addiction. According to the Department of Justice, Johnson and Johnson pled guilty to “Misbranding Antipsychotic Drug.”

Risperdal, a drug used to treat schizophrenia and mania, was not approved for older adults for any relationship to dementia psychosis. Concerning the Johnson and Johnson opioid crisis, Risperdal was unapprovingly introduced, contradicting the actual motive of this drug as Johnson and Johnson claimed this drug could treat mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Johnson and Johnson stated that Risperdal could be used in treating elders with symptoms such as depression, confusion, and anxiety. Johnson and Johnson reduced any information on FDA approvals for this drug, accounting for the misleading labels.

The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) ensures labels are accurately produced and ensures the safety of civilians. Under the FDCA, there are protocols that companies must follow to make reliable brands which are then approved for introduction and implementation.;. However, Johnson and Johnson created a series of hidden loopholes that exempted the company from this approval system. . For example, under the FDCA, Johnson and Johnson avoided the FDA’s approval for Risperdal, an “off-label” drug, because of the unapproved label.

Such reckless decisions targeted groups like elders and younger children with developmental disabilities. The effects of this crisis are everlasting. In total, civilians made over 3,000 lawsuits against the opioid crisis, and over 5,000 lost their lives through opioids. As a result, a 10-year order is instituted towards the use of opioids for Johnson and Johnson. This order prohibits Johnson and Johnson from selling and lobbying opioids.

In 2021, a 26-billion-dollar settlement was made with Johnson and Johnson and three distributors. This settlement would resolve the thousands of opioid lawsuits made. Johnson and Johnson was forced to compensate 5 billion dollars over nine years. In addition, the three distributors would be fined 21 billion dollars to pay for over 18 years. These reparations would benefit treatment and education towards opioid abuse.

Present Day

While lawsuits and settlements solved the Johnson and Johnson crisis, lives were still lost, and reparations were still left to be met. In February of 2022, compensations were finalized. In addition, twenty-six billion dollars in reparations was determined to settle thousands of civil cases over the deadly opioid crisis.

Learning from this crisis, policies like limiting the prescription of opioids and educating the public about the significant risks opioids can create can prevent a future opioid crisis from hurting Americans again.


References

“Wisconsin Department of Justice.” Drug Distributors and Johnson & Johnson Commit to $26 Billion Opioid Agreement | Wisconsin Department of Justice, 25 Feb. 2022, https://www.doj.state.wi.us/news-releases/drug-distributors-and-johnson-johnson-commit-26-billion-opioid-agreement.

“After Resting Case, State Points to Critical Evidence That Shows Johnson & Johnson Is Kingpin behind State's Opioid Epidemic: Oklahoma Attorney General.” After Resting Case, State Points to Critical Evidence That Shows Johnson & Johnson Is Kingpin Behind State's Opioid Epidemic | Oklahoma Attorney General, https://oag.ok.gov/articles/after-resting-case-state-points-critical-evidence-shows-johnson-johnson-kingpin-behind.

https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html#:~:text=Devastating%20consequences%20of%20the%20opioid,use%20and%20misuse%20during%20pregnancy.

Dyer, Owen. “US Opioids: Johnson and Johnson and Drug Distributors Offer $26bn to End Thousands of Lawsuits.” The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 22 July 2021, https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1867/related.

Lopez, German. “The Thousands of Lawsuits against Opioid Companies, Explained.” Vox, Vox, 7 June 2017, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/6/7/15724054/opioid-epidemic-lawsuits-purdue-oxycontin.

Dunleavy, Kevin. “Done Deal: Johnson & Johnson and 3 Distributors Agree to Historic $26 Billion Opioid Settlement.” Fierce Pharma, 21 July 2021, https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/done-deal-johnson-johnson-and-3-distributors-agree-to-historic-26-billion-opioid-lawsuit.

Press, The Associated. “Idaho Announces $119 Million Opioid Crisis Settlement.” NPR, NPR, 14 May 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/05/13/1098933454/idaho-announces-119-million-opioid-crisis-settlement.

Hoffman, Jan. “Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million in Landmark Opioid Trial.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/health/oklahoma-opioids-johnson-and-johnson.html.

“Johnson & Johnson to Pay More than $2.2 Billion to Resolve Criminal and Civil Investigations.” The United States Department of Justice, 22 Oct. 2014, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/johnson-johnson-pay-more-22-billion-resolve-criminal-and-civil-investigations.

“Risperdal: Uses, Dosage & Side Effects.” Drugs.com, https://www.drugs.com/risperdal.html.

Hoffman, Jan. “Companies Finalize $26 Billion Deal with States and Cities to End Opioid Lawsuits.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/health/opioids-settlement-distributors-johnson.html.


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