Court’s ruling overturns state government copout on responsible drugs regulation

Mark Lennihan/AP

The Oklahoma supreme court on Tuesday overturned a $465m opioid ruling against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, finding that a lower court wrongly interpreted the state’s public nuisance law in the first case of its kind in the US to go to trial.

The ruling was the second blow this month to a government case that tried to hold drugmakers responsible for the national epidemic of opioid abuse. Public nuisance claims are at the heart of some 3,000 lawsuits brought by state and local governments against drugmakers, distribution companies and pharmacies.

The court has allowed public nuisance claims to address discrete, localized problems, not policy problems,” said the opinion written by Justice James R Winchester.

“J&J had no control of its products through the multiple levels of distribution, including after it sold the opioids to distributors and wholesalers, which were then disbursed to pharmacies, hospitals, and physicians’ offices, and then prescribed by doctors to patients.”

The ruling also said the company had no control over how patients used the products…

Policy is regulation. Regulation is the responsibility of government – as is enforcement of those regulations. I won’t wander off into analogies though there are many at hand. The basic premise remains the same. Illegal behavior because of substance abuse, whether that substance be alcohol, addictive or non-addictive drugs, is the purview of law. That remit is the responsibility of legislative bodies in conjunction with government enforcement of regulations. Hopefully, the process is conducted sensibly and carried out, honestly.

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