Oklahoma drug ruling could have major impacts in Virginia’s opioid fight


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – It was a ruling that sent shock waves around the country. On Monday, a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million, saying the company downplayed the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids.

Local law experts say this could have a huge impact on the fight against prescription drugs in Virginia.

“It’s a shot across the bow.” Everyone who isn’t in the North Pole knows there is an opioid crisis.”

Ben Madison, Regent Law Professor

That shot is aimed directly at pharmaceutical companies.

“It seems like this is the first strike,” added Old Dominion University law professor Dr. Dennis Gregory.

The professors call this a landmark ruling. It is one that can create a road map to victory in more than 2,000 pending lawsuits against drug companies in the United States.

“The basis for the decision is probably going to be different in other states, but the arguments and the ways the attorneys general approach it will be very similar,” Gregory added.

The Oklahoma judge said that Johnson & Johnson directly caused the increasing numbers of addiction and overdose deaths. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said the same thing when he filed suit against Purdue Pharma.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that Purdue planned to settle thousands of cases for more than $10 billion.

“The roots of this crisis run right through American medicine cabinets, and runs into the board rooms and to the marketing offices of pharmaceutical companies,” Herring said. “They need to be held accountable.”

Local economists say this is the first step to help with the epidemic, but we have a long way to go.

“When you see financial settlements that are significant, and that actually hurt the bottom line of the companies, then they will become much more stringent how they supply opioids and other drugs across the country,” said ODU economics professor Dr. Bob McNab.

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