As the opioid problem continues to ravage the country, several major pharmaceutical companies are feeling the heat in a series of controversial lawsuits alleging that the companies had an indirect role in the thousands of opioid deaths and overdoses that have occurred throughout the United States in recent years.
Earlier this week, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for their alleged role in the opioid crisis, making it the first time that a pharmaceutical company has been ordered to pay damages.
However, compared to what is happening in Ohio, the Johnson and Johnson lawsuit is relatively minor. In Ohio, a federal judge is expected to hear a federal case that is the result of at least 1,600 consolidated lawsuits from across the region in October. The plaintiffs allegedly chose Ohio due to the fact that it is at the center of the opioid crisis (with states like Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky being hit especially hard by the crisis) as well as the fact that it is geographically close to various drugmakers’ headquarters. Additionally, the judge, in this case, has experience with at least one high-profile medical damages case involving damages resulting from particular dyes used in magnetic resonance imaging procedures.
Additionally, there are over 400 other similar cases being fought throughout the United States with many of them being brought by state attorney generals.
However, it is important to note that the plaintiffs are not just suing the major drug manufacturers, but also other entities associated with the manufacturing and distribution of opioids. In a statement to TIME magazine, Tom Claps, a legal analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote that the Oklahoma settlement “suggests future damages could total $37 billion to abate the opioid crisis across the entire country” and that that amount would “be divided between the various opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy/PBM defendants who face liability — not just [Johnson & Johnson].”
As of now, there is no mention of specific healthcare or insurance companies mentioned in the lawsuits.