Oklahoma at trial says J&J's deceptive marketing fueled U.S. opioid crisis

By Ben Fenwick NORMAN, Okla.

Reuters May 29, 2019 00:05:14 IST
Oklahoma at trial says J&J's deceptive marketing fueled U.S. opioid crisis

Oklahoma at trial says JJs deceptive marketing fueled US opioid crisis

By Ben Fenwick

NORMAN, Okla. (Reuters) - The state of Oklahoma accused Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday of using deceptive marketing to create an oversupply of addictive painkillers that fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic, at the start of the first trial in lawsuits over the drug abuse crisis.

Lawyers for the state made those claims in their opening statements in a state court in Norman, Oklahoma. The trial is the first to result from around 2,000 similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturers nationally.

The lawsuits by state and local governments seek to hold the companies responsible for a drug epidemic that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says led to a record 47,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017.

"This is the worst manmade public health crisis in our state's history," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said. "To put it bluntly, this crisis is devastating Oklahoma."

Brad Beckworth, a lawyer for the state, argued that J&J, along with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, used misleading marketing beginning in the 1990s to push doctors to prescribe more opioids.

J&J, which sold the painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta, did so by marketing opioids as "safe and effective for everyday pain" while downplaying their addictive qualities, helping create a drug oversupply, Beckworth said.

He said J&J was motivated to boost prescriptions not only because it sold painkillers, but because it also grew and imported raw materials opioid manufacturers like Purdue used.

"If you have an oversupply, people will die," Beckworth said.

Oklahoma resolved its claims against Purdue in March for $270 million and against Teva on Sunday for $85 million, leaving only J&J as a defendant in the nonjury trial before Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman.

J&J will deliver its opening statement later on Tuesday. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company denies wrongdoing, arguing its marketing was proper and that Oklahoma cannot prove it caused the epidemic.

The state claims the companies' actions created a public nuisance that will cost $12.7 billion to $17.5 billion to remedy over the next 20 to 30 years.

The case is being closely watched by plaintiffs in other opioid lawsuits, particularly the 1,850 cases consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio, who has been pushing for a settlement ahead of an October trial.

Some plaintiffs' lawyers have compared the opioid cases to litigation by states against the tobacco industry that led to a $246 billion settlement in 1998.

(Reporting by Ben Fenwick in Norman, Oklahoma; Writing by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Rockets hit near U.S. forces and contractors in Iraq in separate attacks -officials
World

Rockets hit near U.S. forces and contractors in Iraq in separate attacks -officials

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Rockets hit near U.S. forces and contractors in Iraq on Wednesday, including an air base north of Baghdad and a military base at Baghdad International Airport, the Iraqi army and security officials said. The army reported at least three rockets hit Balad air base, where U.S

Italian police probe subcontractor to Burberry over labour exploitation -warrant
World

Italian police probe subcontractor to Burberry over labour exploitation -warrant

By Silvia Ognibene and Silvia Aloisi FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) -Italian police have arrested a Chinese couple accused of running a leather goods business which exploited immigrant workers it employed to make handbags for a Burberry supplier, according to an arrest warrant seen by Reuters. Tax police in Florence said in a statement that the two Chinese nationals were arrested on Wednesday as part of an investigation into alleged labour exploitation and tax fraud and that restrictive measures had been imposed on two other family members, including a ban on them leaving Italy

U.S. blacklists four Nicaraguans, including Ortega's daughter
World

U.S. blacklists four Nicaraguans, including Ortega's daughter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday blacklisted four Nicaraguans, including a daughter of President Daniel Ortega, as Washington warned it would continue to use diplomatic and economic tools against members of the leftist government engaged in repression. The U.S. State Department called on Ortega to release detained presidential candidates as well as other civil society and opposition leaders arrested over the past week in what Washington called "an increasing wave of repression." "There are costs for those who are complicit in the regime's repression.