J&J opioid trial begins in Oklahoma

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 28, 2019 - Duration: 02:37s

J&J opioid trial begins in Oklahoma

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.

Jillian Kitchener has more.

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J&J opioid trial begins in Oklahoma

(SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER OPIOID ADDICT NOW RUNNING TREATMENT FACILITY LANCE LANG, SAYING:“I went from dabbling just in the evenings to taking pills at night, in the morning... you know, going from two to three at a time, to four at a time, to five at a time.

And slowly, like in the midst of those several years, my life completely deteriorated, and I lost everything that I loved.” For three years — Oklahoma’s Lance Lang struggled with crippling addiction to opioids, starting from when he was prescribed painkillers after a fender bender.

The 36-year-old is now in recovery and runs a sober house to help others.

He says he wants to see some accountability for what caused the deadly flood of opioids in Oklahoma.

And he could soon get some satisfaction.

On Tuesday, an historic trial began -- with Oklahoma challenging Johnson & Johnson in court - arguing that the drug maker should be held responsible for its role in the opioid crisis.

(SOUNDBITE) OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, MIKE HUNTER, SAYING: "During this trial, your honor, our evidence will show that 460, 053 Oklahomans died of unintentional overdoses involves prescription opioids from 2007-2017....How did this happen your honor?

I have a short one-word answer: Greed." Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s lawsuit accuses J&J of fueling the opioid epidemic by using deceptive marketing that downplayed the addictive risks while overstating the benefits.

(SOUNDBITE) OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, MIKE HUNTER, SAYING: "Even though these drugs were approved by the FDA, it didn't mean these companies could market these drugs in the way they have.

So there's a responsibility here that we believe is clear with respect to public nuisance law in the state." Johnson and Johnson is the sole defendant after Teva Pharmaceutical over the weekend settled with Oklahoma for $85 million— joining Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma’s $270 million settlement, in March, to resolve the state's claims against it.

Teva said its settlement - quote - "does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company" and denied contributing to opioid abuse in Oklahoma.

J&J also denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement, J&J said — quote — "The FDA-approved labels for these prescription pain medications provide clear information about their risks and benefits." But the Oklahoma Attorney General has called J&J the - quote - 'Kingpin' behind the public health emergency.

With more than 1,800 other opioid-related lawsuits by mostly state and local governments pending, the Oklahoma case is the first in the nation to go to trial.

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