Johnson & Johnson’s stock continues to falter as the company begins defending itself at trial against a lawsuit by the state of Oklahoma, which alleges the company made billions in profits while contributing to the opioid deaths of more than 4,000 state residents over the last decade.
It’s the first trial to pit a state attorney general’s office against an opioid maker in an attempt to recover the billions of dollars spent on healthcare, criminal justice, and emergency medical services. Nearly 50,000 people a year are dying from opioid overdoses in the United States; that’s more people than die from either traffic accidents or gun violence. Attorneys for Oklahoma called it the worst manmade health crisis in the nation’s history.
Purdue Pharma and Teva, two of the nation’s largest supplier of opioids, have already reached multi-million dollar settlements with the state. Johnson & Johnson was the only opioid maker to take the case to trial. Court watchers expect the company to lose badly, before settling the case during the appeals process. Neva settled for $85 million, while Purdue Pharma agreed in March to pay Oklahoma $270 million.