On Aug. 26, an Oklahoma judge charged pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson as guilty for instigating the state’s opioid crisis through the marketing of painkillers.This landmark ruling held a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the most deadly epidemics that claims an average of over 130 lives each day, making it the first in doing so. The judge then ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay 572 million dollars, according to NPR.
While this came as a shock to many people who are used to seeing this brand on baby shampoos and bandages, it created an opportunity for holding the pharmaceutical industry responsible for this nationwide epidemic.
The opioid crisis began in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies like Johnson and Johnson reassured the medical community of the so-called non-addictive qualities in their painkillers. This fallacy caused prescription rates to skyrocket and profits to flow in. Those false and dangerous reassurances generated the start of a new decade’s epidemic.
Starting in 2001, former Florida State Senator and current state attorney Dave Aronberg spearheaded the initiative in stopping “big pharma” from getting away with their actions that affect millions of people, especially his constituents in the state of Florida.
“The opioid crisis is caused by a combination of the atrophy, regulation failure and corporate greed of the pharmaceutical companies who are rarely held accountable for creating this man-made epidemic,” Aronberg said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12% of people prescribed these pain killers become addicted and risk overdose. While the accountability of Johnson and Johnson comes as a victory in this long fought battle, it comes as a small one.
“Johnson and Johnson themselves are not as egregious in the epidemic as other companies such as Purdue Pharma but the size of the verdict should not be the focus here, rather the fact that a judge stood in front of them after hearing their testaments and found that one small player accountable,” Aronberg said
While nationwide, the opioid crisis occurs right in our own backyard. Simple medical procedures such as teeth whitening, now come with a prescription of painkillers according to NPR. Americans, especially the upper middle class face an effect of this crisis everyday.
“I have seen this crisis impact those around me tremendously because of the tragedies that have occurred,” junior and Vice President of Students Working Against Tobacco, Marian Gonzalez said. “I have become much more involved in the dangers and warning of painkillers and prescriptions, this is because the epidemic has emphasized and made me more aware of what’s going on.”
A wide range of Americans, especially the wealthy and educated, die everyday with needles in their arms. As the poison pumps through their veins, big pharma sits idly by, filling their pockets.
“There’s nothing I or Anyone can do to bring loved ones back but hope to hold these corporations accountable through civil and legal actions,” Aronberg said.