In a case that is bound to have ripple effects for years to come, a state court judge in Oklahoma last week held that Johnson & Johnson must pay half a billion dollars to the state government as penance for manufacturing and marketing prescription pain medication. Many are hailing the judgment as a proper comeuppance for the pharmaceutical industry. But the Oklahoma verdict will do little to address the crisis and much to undermine the rule of law.
In ordering Johnson & Johnson to pony up $572 million, Judge Thad Balkman said that the money would help to “abate” the opioid crisis in Oklahoma. But Johnson & Johnson did not cause Oklahoma’s drug problem. And Balkman’s verdict will not solve it.
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