Opioid Specialist Says Court's Decision May Have Dangerous Result
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - A judge's landmark decision in the State's opioid case against Johnson & Johnson is leaving pain patients with a lot of questions.
A Cleveland County judge ruled the drugmaker is responsible for creating the state's opioid crisis and ordered the company to pay $572 million.
Opioid patient Robin Arnall lives alone and works from home. She suffers from Crohn's disease and Spinal stenosis, two very painful conditions she treats with opioids.
"I take this medication because I cannot function without it," she said.
Arnall has taken Norco for more than thirty years, as prescribed. She said she's not an addict, but without her medication, her life would be drastically different.
"I wouldn't be able to walk. I couldn't go to the grocery store," she said. "I couldn't play with my dog."
Arnall said she's a productive member of society now, but she said Monday's decision to hold Johnson & Johnson accountable for Oklahoma's opioid crisis worries her. She fears drug makers will stop producing opioids altogether.
"I don't know how my pain can be managed and how I can continue to work and support myself, and it scares me," she said.
Tulsa Addiction and Pain Specialist Dr. William Yarborough said Arnall's fear is common. Although it may not have been the intended effect, he said many doctors won't prescribe opioids at all anymore.
"There's not many doctors out there that want to mess with this because of the risks," Yarborough said.
Dr. Yarborough. who is also the president of the Oklahoma Society of Addiction Medicine, said he worries about patients like Arnall who have relied on opioids to function for so many years. He said the withdrawals she could go through if she no longer had access to those medications could be very dangerous.
"It's really had perhaps an unintended effect, but there are people who have suffered because of this," he said.
The State of Oklahoma said several times throughout their case that it is not their intention for opioids to be taken away from those who truly need it, and take it appropriately.