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Is This Popular Brand Fueling the Opioid Epidemic?

According to an Oklahoma state official, Johnson & Johnson is largely to blame for fueling the country’s opioid crisis. A new report reveals the state is taking the popular company to court for the role it has played in opioid addiction, allegedly serving as a top supplier, seller and lobbyist.

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Johnson & Johnson is the newest company to be labeled responsible for playing a significant role in painkiller addiction in America. Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, has also been the target of several lawsuits. Known largely for its “wholesome” products — like baby powder — Johnson & Johnson is reportedly responsible for creating some of the raw plant material that served as active ingredients in popular opioids, including OxyContin. The company produced raw narcotics in Tasmanian poppy fields and created other active opioid ingredients, then sold them to opioid makers like Purdue Pharma.

Oklahoma is also calling the company out for targeting some of the most vulnerable populations for painkiller prescriptions, including children and elderly adults. Johnson & Johnson has funded multiple pro-opioid groups. The state points out that a subsidiary for the company created a brochure intended for seniors that claimed “opioids are rarely addictive.”

The Oklahoma attorney general requested a public release of millions of pages of confidential documents submitted by Johnson & Johnson during the case’s discovery phase. Johnson & Johnson denies the allegations, calling them baseless and unsubstantiated.

This isn’t the first time the popular pharmaceutical company has been in the hot seat. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has urged Johnson & Johnson for years to remove the hazardous ingredients in their Baby Shampoo — 1,4-dioxane and quaternium-15. In 2010, CEO William Weldon admitted that the company secretly bought defective drugs without informing regulators or consumers, then initiated a
“phantom recall” involving more than 80,000 Motrin tablets.

In 2017, a jury awarded a California woman $417 million when she developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder for most of her life. According to internal documents from the case, the company knew its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos — a known carcinogen — but they kept the information a secret from consumers as well as regulators. In 2018, a jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.

If their history of cancer-causing ingredients, secrecy and money-above-integrity is anything to go by, the company may be facing some serious trouble with their upcoming legal battles.