Transnational corporation Johnson & Johnson has been accused of playing the role of “kingpin” in the nationwide opioid epidemic that continues to claim thousands of lives every year, according to an Axios report.
The pharmaceutical, medical, and consumer goods giant–which holds a range of properties including some of the most recognizable U.S. brands such as Band-Aids, No More Tears baby shampoo, and Neosporin, among others–has been accused by officials in the state of Oklahoma of playing the role of supplier, seller and lobbyist in the global opioid market.
J&J’s work in the painkiller market was done through two subsidiaries, Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, which it sold to a private equity firm in 2016 for $650 million, according to Axios.
The company has long depicted itself as a “family company” operating under the credo:
“We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well.”
But the new revelations cast, in sharp relief, how the company pulverized entire communities and destroyed families while raking in massive profits from a crisis that has fed waves of crime and a crisis of addiction and deadly overdoses that claim over 100 lives per day.
The tragic yet fascinating story of how Johnson & Johnson (ironic twitter name @JNJCares ) enabled @purduepharma the Big Pharma in developing and delivering one of the most addictive substances on the planet: Oxycodone (brand name OxyContin). https://t.co/EpOCSnzX8X
— Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) March 12, 2019
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has requested that the state release a vast tranche of confidential documents numbering in the millions of pages that Johnson & Johnson was forced to submit during the discovery phase of Oklahoma’s legal fight against the key companies who sparked the opioid crisis.
In his request, Hunter noted:
“Oklahomans deserve answers … [we] need to know about how one particular company, J&J, inserted itself into our State and sought to influence every opioid-related decision the State made or considered – from scheduling to swallowing … J&J continues to fight to keep those answers concealed. In the dark. Away from the public.”
“The public … deserves to know the full extent of J&J’s efforts to influence policymakers at all levels of government in order to increase sales of their (and their co-conspirators’) drugs.”
The litigation hints at how the culpability for the opioid epidemic can hardly be restricted to companies such as Purdue Pharma, the producer of OxyContin. Purdue is currently being sued by Massachusetts for its role in deliberately misleading the public over the lethal dangers of its opioid painkillers.
Yet the new report shows how J&J played a key role in producing the plant materials–such as the raw narcotics from Tasmanian poppy fields–which were turned into the active ingredients of popular opioids, including those produced by Purdue Pharma.
In investor slides, the company also openly boasted of the addictive qualities of its products, noting that its opium poppies “enabled the growth of oxycodone,” while the morphine content of its other poppy was among “the highest in the world.”
In the meantime, the company also reportedly provided funding for pro-opioid advocacy groups such as the Pain Care Forum. Brochures for seniors produced by a company subsidiary also made the ludicrous false claim that “opioids are rarely addictive.” Such propaganda and promotional efforts, referred to as a “pro-opioid echo chamber” in the motion, were a part of the company’s concerted effort to target vulnerable demographic groups, including children.
J&J has lambasted the attorney general’s motion as containing “baseless and unsubstantiated” allegations meant to generate “sensationalistic headlines and to poison potential jurors.” The company has also argued that its subsidiaries, which were sold to private equity firms years ago, “met all laws and regulations.”
Yet it remains obvious, based on the once-confidential material that Oklahoma now possesses, that the company had been making billions of dollars hand over fist while trafficking and hustling addictive substances through what it called its “pain management franchise.”
And as increased calls to tackle the opioid crisis grow louder, from the White House to state legislatures and the streets, it remains clear that the big players who caused the crisis should be exposed from top to bottom, along with their nefarious practices and concerted attempts to mislead and deceive the U.S. public.
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