Oklahoma state attorney, Brad Beckworth said Johnson & Johnson urged doctors to prescribe more opioids in the 90s. (AP: Chris Lansberger)
The Oklahoma state sued one of the largest drug manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, claiming it conducted deceptive marketing campaigns for painkillers and contributed to the country's opioid crisis.
- It is the first case of thousands of similar lawsuits against opiate producers
- A national public health institute registered 47,600 opioid-related deaths in 2017
- Johnson & Johnson maintains its legal and strongly regulated actions
The state has accused Johnson & Johnson of deceiving highly engaging opioids for years in a way that has overestimated their effectiveness and underestimated the risk of addiction, and claims that the company's shares have created a public nuisance that will cost at least $ US13 billion ( $ 18.8 billion) over 20 years.
Johnson & Johnson claimed that it was part of a heavily regulated legal industry subject to strict federal controls and that the doctors were the ones who prescribed drugs.
The trial without jury is the first of 2,000 cases brought by state and local governments against pharmaceutical companies accused of contributing to the opioid crisis in the United States.
An Oklahoma state attorney, Brad Beckworth, said that Johnson & Johnson, along with OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, used misleading marketing from the early 1990s to push doctors to prescribe more opioids.
Instead of going to court, the state of Oklahoma reached a $ 270 million ($ 390 million) out-of-court settlement with Purdue Pharma in May and liquidated a $ US85 million ($ 122.7 million) lawsuit against Teva on Sunday.
The lawsuits aim to hold the companies responsible for a drug epidemic that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have led to 47,600 deaths due to opioid-related overdoses in 2017.
Beckworth said that Johnson & Johnson sold the painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta and marketed the opioids as "safe and effective for everyday pain" that created an excess supply of drugs.
He said Johnson & Johnson was motivated to increase prescriptions not only because he was selling painkillers, but also because he grew up and imported the opioid producers of raw materials like Purdue used.
"If you have an oversupply, people will die," said Beckworth.
"Crisis in public health caused by man"
It is the first US state trial against a pharmaceutical company for the country's opioid crisis. (AP: Sue Ogrocki)
The Oklahoma attorney general, Mike Hunter, who filed the multibillion-dollar case, argued in a state court that Johnson & Johnson should be forced to pay for helping to cause "the worst public health crisis caused by the # 39 ; man in the history of our state ".
Johnson & Johnson's attorney, Larry Ottaway, said the company's marketing statements did not differ from those made by the US Food and Drug Administration, which in 2009 stated that painkillers rarely caused addiction when properly managed.
Purdue Pharma paid $ 270 million to settle a previous Oklahoma lawsuit for opioid addiction. (AP: Jessica Hill)
"We're not kidding anyone, but the facts are stubborn things," he said.
He also claimed that the state of Oklahoma was trying to "extend" the limits of a public harassment statute in order to force the company to pay up to $ US $ 5.5 billion ($ 25.3 billion) of damage.
Some plaintiffs' lawyers have compared cases to state disputes against the tobacco industry that led to a $ 246 billion agreement in 1998.
Reuters / ABC
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