Oklahoma takes on drugmakers J&J, Teva in landmark opioid trial

A trial begins Tuesday in Norman, OK, pitting the state against two drugmakers it accuses of fueling the opioid epidemic: Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

A trial begins Tuesday in Norman, OK, pitting the state against two drugmakers it accuses of fueling the opioid epidemic: Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s $17 billion lawsuit will seek to convince Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman to find that the companies created a public nuisance by using deceptive marking that downplayed their drugs’ addictive risks while overstating their benefits. Balkman will rule following the trial, which will last 8 weeks. Oklahoma resolved related claims against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP in March for $270 million. J&J and Teva deny wrongdoing, arguing the state lacks evidence linking any marketing they did to doctors writing unwarranted opioid prescriptions. They also argue that even if they falsely marketed their products, the state cannot prove they caused the opioid epidemic given the role doctors, patients, pharmacists, and drug dealers played in it. The state claims J&J and Teva deceptively marketed opioids with Purdue by retaining prominent doctors to give talks advocating use of opioids to treat chronic rather than short-term pain. It also says the companies funded groups that purported to be independent and these groups in turn promoted the misrepresentations.