J&J kicks back at Oklahoma politicians' move to squeeze out more opioid payments: report

Johnson & Johnson was on the losing end of the nation’s first opioid trial in Oklahoma, and even though it's appealing, the company is already fighting to limit its future liability as politicians put on a squeeze for more payments down the line. 

After the August verdict against the company for $572 million, Gov. Kevin Stitt and two prominent Republican lawmakers filed a brief arguing that future costs beyond the first year shouldn’t go to taxpayers, Law.com reports. As it stands, J&J has been told to pay out $572 million for the first year of opioid crisis abatement. The company is appealing the verdict.  

In an October filing, Stitt and lawmakers said J&J should pay billions in addition to the $572 million verdict over many years to fund crisis abatement, Reuters reported

Now, J&J has hit back. A lawyer for the company wrote in a brief the argument is “unnecessary, redundant, and unpersuasive” because Oklahoma’s attorney general has represented the state’s interests for two years over the course of the litigation.  

Originally, the state’s attorney general asked for $17.5 billion in damages to abate the crisis over decades. In the verdict, Judge Thad Balkman said there were “gaps in the state’s evidence” about costs beyond one year, J&J’s lawyer wrote in the new filing.

RELATED: How significant is J&J's $572M opioid verdict in Oklahoma? It's complicated 

The exchanges come as J&J and other drugmakers seek to resolve the nationwide opioid litigation that’s centered in Cleveland federal court. J&J has offered $4 billion to resolve allegations against the company.  

In the Oklahoma case, state prosecutors in 2017 sued J&J, Teva and Purdue Pharma for creating a public nuisance with their opioid marketing. Teva inked an $85 million settlement ahead of trial, and Purdue settled for $270 million. 

In a completely different approach by state officials, New York’s insurance regulator this week informed drugmakers it plans to initiate an enforcement action against them for playing a role in rising insurance premiums, Reuters reports. A J&J spokesperson told the news service the company “acted as a responsible manufacturer and seller of its opioid pain medications, which play an important role in the lives of patients with severe pain.”