An Oklahoma judge on Monday found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state's opioid crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to clean up the problem. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman's ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial, the AP reports, and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local, and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio. "The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma," Balkman said before announcing the verdict. "It must be abated immediately." Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017. More than 130 people a day in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, per CNN. Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Oklahoma earlier settled with two defendant groups—a $270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million agreement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Oklahoma argued the companies created a public nuisance with an aggressive marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction. Hunter has called Johnson & Johnson a "kingpin" company motivated by greed. He pointed to former subsidiaries, Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, that produced much of the raw opium other companies used to produce the drugs. The company maintains it was part of a lawful and heavily regulated industry. (Scientists saw the crisis beginning in 2006.)