West Virginia Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Opioid ‘solution’ may be worse than the problem

Our View

By The West Virginia Record | Aug 28, 2019


“Today’s verdict by Judge Thad Balkman that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million to the Oklahoma state government as penance for the opioid crisis puts manufacturers of all lawful, but politically unpopular, products at risk,” warns a press release issued Aug. 26 by the Independent Women’s Forum.

“Unfortunately, Judge Balkman’s decision punishes the makers of valuable prescription medicines and does little to solve this complex public health problem,” IWF argues. “Judges should not be allowed to regulate the distribution of federally-controlled medicines outside of the normal regulatory process or to redistribute wealth from the private sector to the public sector for the purpose of funding government spending.”

IWF spokeswoman Jennifer Braceras calls the verdict “a victory for taxation by litigation” that will lead to “higher prices and reduced access to pain medications for patients who need them.”

Noting that “state AGs and the trial bar have been stretching public-nuisance law beyond its intended purpose,” an editorial in the Aug. 26 Wall Street Journal similarly predicts that “the ruling could have far larger, and more dangerous, consequences by opening a vast new arena for product-liability suits.”

Private lawyers hired by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter could earn $90 million in fees from the verdict, in addition to $80 million in fees from the Purdue Pharma and Teva settlements. Those same lawyers donated more than $95,000 to Hunter’s electoral campaign.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently filed his own public nuisance suits against Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals, seeking to hold the companies liable for the costs of the opioid epidemic in our state.

Let’s hope that his litigation on our behalf is not motivated by an opportunistic desire to exploit a crisis and swell state coffers by shaking down legitimate companies that may have had little or nothing to do with the crisis.

West Virginians who’ve suffered through no fault of their own should be helped and compensated for damages. The blameworthy should be held accountable. Lawyers, politicians, and others seeking to profit from the misery should be scorned.

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