Oklahoma awarded $572 million in opioid lawsuit

Lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for role in the opioid crisis results in $572 million award.

Opioids & Money

NPR is reporting that pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been hit with a $572 million award for its role in the opioid crisis. The lawsuit was brought by the State of Oklahoma and is the first ruling to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible. The state had asked for $17 billion for a 30 year abatement plan. The judge only awarded one year based upon the evidence presented. Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys say they will appeal this decision. This case also serves as a bellwether for other lawsuits across the country.

We found this article significant because of the implications it has for other states. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nassel is currently exploring her own civil lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors, and other responsible parties. Federal prosecutors have brought criminal charges against a major opioid manufacturer and two of its former executives.

It is truly shocking how much money is needed to help people suffering from the opioid crisis. Addiction treatment services, physician education programs, data tracking systems, and patient outreach are just some of the many costs. We are talking hundreds of millions if not billions over the next several decades. Michigan taxpayers and businesses will certainly foot the bill unless responsible parties can be held accountable.

Opioid prescriptions have dropped significantly in the last several years, but problems in our state remain. We have seen the opioid crisis firsthand with our workers’ compensation clients. Addiction is a terrible disease that requires proactive treatment. The Detroit Free Press previously reported that opioid deaths reached a record high in 2017 with 2,729 people losing their lives. One of our clients also died from an overdose despite treatment and returning to work.

Workers’ compensation rules prohibit reimbursement beyond 90 days unless specific criteria are met. This includes detailed physician reporting including analysis of medical history and previous narcotic use, a written treatment plan including periodic urine drug screens and conscientious efforts to reduce pain through alternative means, and a signed opioid treatment agreement. The Michigan Legislature has also put limits on opioid prescriptions for treatment of acute pain symptoms.

Our experience shows that employees fail to use workers’ compensation for help. More needs to be done to erase the stigma associated with opioid addiction. We encourage anyone who is battling opioid addiction to seek help from their doctor. This includes employees with claims that have been closed or disputed. It is possible to get medical and wage loss benefits covered. Alternative pain therapies also exist and should be covered. There should be no co-pays or deductibles under workers’ compensation insurance so cost should not be a barrier. Even inpatient treatment is covered if reasonable and necessary. Please do not suffer in silence!

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

Opioid prescriptions continue to decline in Michigan but people are still dying

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