Oklahoma seeks to hold J&J responsible for opioid crisis as trial ends

NORMAN, Okla. (Reuters) – Lawyers for the state of Oklahoma on Monday urged a judge to hold Johnson & Johnson responsible for fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic, as the first trial nationally in litigation over the drug crisis came to an end.

The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Lawyers for the state, including Attorney General Mike Hunter, told a judge in Norman, Oklahoma that J&J knew opioids were addictive yet played down their dangers when promoting them, leading to an oversupply of pills that caused overdose deaths.

“This company went out and sponsored lies,” Brad Beckworth, a lawyer for the state, said in his closing argument. “They went out and said the risk of addiction was less than 1%.”

He urged Judge Thad Balkmanm, who presided over the multibillion-dollar nonjury trial, to find New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J liable for creating a public nuisance.

The case is one of around 2,000 actions by state and local governments accusing drug manufacturers of contributing to the opioid epidemic. Opioids were linked to a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Oklahoma case is being closely watched by plaintiffs in other opioid lawsuits, particularly in 1,900 cases pending before a federal judge in Ohio who has been pushing for a settlement ahead of an October trial.

At trial, lawyers for Oklahoma argued that J&J, which sold the painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta, had since the 1990s marketed opioids as “safe and effective for everyday pain” while downplaying their addictive qualities.

The state has accused J&J of acting as the “kingpin” behind the epidemic and says the company was motivated to boost prescriptions not only because it sold painkillers but because it also grew and imported raw materials that opioid manufacturers like OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP used.

J&J denies causing the epidemic. Its lawyers have argued that its products made up a small share of opioids prescribed in Oklahoma and carried U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels that warned of the addictive risks.

J&J, whose lawyers were expected to deliver their own closing arguments later on Monday, argues the state is seeking to stretch the bounds of a public nuisance statute in order to force J&J to pay up to $17.5 billion to remedy the crisis.

Purdue and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd were originally also defendants in the case. Purdue reached a $270 million settlement with the state in March and Teva settled for $85 million in June. Both deny wrongdoing.

Reporting by Heide Brandes; writing by Nate Raymond; editing by Noeleen Walder, Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis

Source

more recommended stories

  • AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi misses main goal of advanced lung cancer study

    FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen.

  • AstraZeneca diabetes drug shows promise in heart failure

    (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) made strides.

  • Study prompts call for lower fluoride consumption by pregnant women

    (Reuters Health) – Adding fluoride to.

  • CDC investigates lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use

    FILE PHOTO: A man vapes outside.

  • E.coli in water forces Tokyo to cancel swimming at Paratriathlon World Cup

    TOKYO (Reuters) – High levels of.

  • E.coli risk forces Tokyo to cancel swim events at Paratriathlon World Cup

    TOKYO (Reuters) – High levels of.

  • First two Ebola cases confirmed in Congo’s South Kivu – officials

    FILE PHOTO: Children look at a.

  • Surgical training programs not supportive of new parents

    (Reuters Health) – Surgical residents say.

  • Liver disease related to obesity and diabetes rising in U.S.

    (Reuters Health) – The only liver.

  • Ebola ‘no longer incurable’ as Congo trial finds drugs boost survival

    LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are a.

  • Scientists hail promise of first effective Ebola treatments in Congo trial

    LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are a.

  • China cuts 2019/20 corn use forecast by 2 million tonnes due to African swine fever

    Corn kernels are seen at a.

  • WHO says no new Ebola cases in Goma, vaccinates over 1,300

    FILE PHOTO: A young woman reacts.

  • Dengue death toll rises in Malaysia, number of cases close to double

    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia saw.

  • Amgen wins U.S. patent battle on arthritis drug Enbrel, thwarting Novartis

    (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on.

  • AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso helps lung cancer patients live longer: study

    (Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc said on.

  • Study shows Apple devices in combo with apps could identify dementia

    FILE PHOTO: The new Apple iPhone.

  • Moving during early pregnancy may increase preterm birth risk

    (Reuters Health) – Moving to a.

  • Drug assistance programs offer little charity to uninsured

    (Reuters Health) – Many patients who.

  • In extreme heat, electric fans inadvisable unless it’s humid

    In extreme heat, electric fans may.

  • Trump administration considers September unveiling of healthcare plan: WSJ

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • Bulgaria to compensate owners who cull pigs to help stamp out swine fever

    FILE PHOTO: A pig rests at.

  • Yellow lens glasses don’t improve drivers’ night vision

    (Reuters Health) – – Touted to.

  • U.S. FDA approves Daiichi Sankyo’s treatment for rare joint tumor

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and.

  • For some surgeries, hospital rankings not tied to better outcomes

    (Reuters Health) – When it comes.

  • Congo says Rwanda has closed border near Goma

    Congolese customs agents gather at the.

  • Pluristem gets positive results from radiation treatment trials

    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics.

  • Congress seeks briefing on potential threat to U.S. heparin supply

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders of the.

  • U.S. judge blocks Medicaid work requirements in New Hampshire

    (Reuters) – A federal judge on.

  • Bernie Sanders visits Canadian pharmacy, talks drug prices

    WINDSOR, Ontario (Reuters) – U.S. Senator.

  • China detects African swine fever in pigs transported to Liaoning: Xinhua

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China detected African.

  • Sanofi ends partnership with Lexicon to develop diabetes drug

    FILE PHOTO: A logo of Sanofi.