CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 HOST: Should American companies that manufacture certain drugs be held responsible for overdose deaths from those drugs? That's the first subject we're exploring today. I'm Carl Azuz.
A district county judge in Oklahoma has ordered Johnson & Johnson, a pharmaceutical company, to pay $572 million for its role in Oklahoma's opioid crisis. This was the first state trial that tried to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible.
The crisis itself has been g?oing on for decades. In 2017, President Trump declared America's opioid crisis a public health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says between 1999 and 2017, more than 700,000 died from drug overdoses. And that most of those deaths, 68 percent, involved opioids.
These are a class of drugs that include the illegal substance, heroine, but also pain killers that are legally prescribed like hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl. Johnson & Johnson makes everything from medical equipment to skin care products to baby shampoo.
It also owns a smaller company that manufactures legal opioids. That's why Oklahoma sued it. Oklahoma says Johnson & Johnson created the opioid crisis there that killed more than 6,000 people statewide, destroyed families, and hurt communities.
How could that happen if opioids are legally prescribed by doctors and then consumed by patients? In his decision against Johnson & Johnson, the judge wrote that the company actively promoted opioids, suggested that Americans in pain needed more pain killers and implied that there's a low risk these drugs would be abused and a low danger in prescribing them.
Johnson & Johnson says it recognizes that the opioid crisis is a complex health issue, but that it followed state laws, marketed its drugs responsibly, and that Oklahoma failed to prove that a Johnson & Johnson company caused any harm. It's planning to appeal the decision.
The reason this case is getting so much attention nationwide is because it could be used as an example in other lawsuits by other states that are suing opioid makers.