At trial, Oklahoma says J&J fueled opioid crisis

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 28, 2019 - Duration: 02:13s

At trial, Oklahoma says J&J fueled opioid crisis

Johnson & Johnson's greed led the drugmaker to use deceptive marketing to create an oversupply of painkillers that fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic, the state of Oklahoma alleged at the start of the first trial of its kind.

Jillian Kitchener has more.

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At trial, Oklahoma says J&J fueled opioid crisis

(SOUNDBITE) LAWYER FOR THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, BRAD BECKWORTH, SAYING: "The reason we have an opioid crisis is that simple — if you oversupply, people will die.” That's the argument made Tuesday against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

In the first trial of its kind, the state of Oklahoma is accusing J&J of deceptive marketing to sell prescription painkillers, and fueling an opioid epidemic.

Brad Beckworth, the lawyer for Oklahoma, said the company billed the drugs as "safe and effective for everyday pain," downplaying their addictive and deadly potential.

Reuters correspondent Ben Fenwick was in the courtroom: (SOUNDBITE) (AUDIO ONLY) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, BEN FENWICK, SAYING: “On behalf of the state, Mr. Beckworth is arguing that the opioid manufacturers and in this case specifically J&J specifically targeted Oklahoma to increase the number of opioid users.... The state presented evidence from a sales associate that they pressured a doctor to continue prescribing addictive painkillers even after he told them two of his patients have died from them.” J&J denies wrongdoing, arguing that its marketing efforts were proper and that the state cannot prove it caused the opioid epidemic given the role doctors, patients, pharmacists and drug dealers played.

But Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says J&J is responsible, calling the company the 'Kingpin' behind the public health emergency.

(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.” Johnson & Johnson is the remaining defendant in the multibillion-dollar lawsuit, 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.

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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