An Oklahoma judge on Monday is expected to decide whether Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report will be held responsible for the state's opioid epidemic that officials there say led to more than 6,000 deaths over nearly two decades.
Oklahoma's attorney general, Mike Hunter, is urging Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman to rule against J&J and force it to pay more than $17 billion in the first civil trial in the U.S. seeking to hold a drugmaker accountable for helping fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic.
The Oklahoma attorney general claims J&J and its pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen, aggressively marketed to doctors and downplayed the risks of opioids beginning in the 1990s. The company's sales practices created an oversupply of the addictive painkillers and "a public nuisance" that upended lives and will cost the state $12.7 billion to $17.5 billion, the state has said.
J&J has denied any wrongdoing, noting in court that its marketing and promotion of pain medications were "appropriate and responsible."
The $17 billion -- to be used to treat opioid addiction and abatement over a 30-year period -- would provide funds for addiction treatment and prevention programs in the state, officials have said. There is a chance the case could be settled out of court before the judge delivers a decision on Monday.
Shares of J&J were up 0.54% at $127.46 in trading on Monday. The ended the day Friday down 2.7%, or $3.54 a share, at $127.73.
Johnson & Johnson is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust.
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