Opioid lawsuit success bodes well for North Dakota

There are a number of reactions that could manifest as a result of the State of Oklahoma’s $572 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson announced this week as a result of the company’s alleged role in the spread of the opioid epidemic.

While there is certain to be an appeal if a settlement isn’t reached, it still represents a breakthrough for state and local governments seeking compensation from “big pharma” when it comes to this epidemic. That’s a good thing.

However, some may also take Oklahoma’s success as a sign that a state operating legally alone against pharmaceutical companies may be the path to follow. Operating independently, Oklahoma already reached a $270 million deal with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and an $85 million settlement with Teva.

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s case against Purdue Pharma was rejected by a district judge. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has said he will take the case to the state Supreme Court.

Oklahoma’s success shouldn’t demonstrate that individual state or local government action is the best option. The decision in the Sooner State is headed toward more court action and barring a settlement, it could be years before the state sees any financial boon.

Instead, residents of states like ours should be encouraged that pharmaceutical companies are being held responsible for their part in the opioid epidemic. That bodes well for states involved in larger lawsuits involving multiple parties. What pharmaceutical company wants to face the possibility of multiple half-billion dollar court rulings when there is the possibility of settlements?

Although the legal wrangling with Oklahoma might continue, the door has been opened to compensation from pharmaceutical companies, whether individual or class action.

However the case in Oklahoma plays out, Minot Daily News believes North Dakota will eventually benefit from its effort in regard to suits against pharmaceutical companies and see compensation.

It might take some time for a settlement or court decision to benefit North Dakota. However, it seems more likely today than in the past that there will be compensation.

MDN believes the next important decision after this issue is resolved is how the state invests any incoming funds it is due. After the “big tobacco” settlement was reached years ago, only a small percentage of the money, nationwide, was invested in prevention and treatment.

Hopefully, North Dakota can do better. It is something to watch.