A historic trial is set to come to an end, Monday, when an Oklahoma judge rules on whether pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson should be held liable for fueling an opioid epidemic.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General argues Johnson & Johnson should be forced to pay 17 billion dollars, for marketing their prescription painkillers as safe and effective while downplaying their addictive and deadly potential.
State attorney Brad Beckworth claims thousands of Oklahomans have died from opioid overdoses since the year 2000.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LAWYER FOR OKLAHOMA, BRAD BECKWORTH, SAYING: “This company cut and ran, took the money and ran and they left us here holding the body bags.” The company denies wrongdoing.
It says its painkillers were a tiny fraction of all opioids prescribed in the state… and that its marketing claims had scientific support.
Defense attorney Larry Ottaway, in closing arguments, said the drugs were made to HELP patients function.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR J&J, LARRY OTTAWAY, SAYING: “They’re innovative, they work, and they have advantages no other opioids have because this company took their responsibility to those patients seriously.” OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical were originally also defendants in the case.
BUT - Purdue Pharma settled with Oklahoma for $270 million and Teva for $85 million.
This Oklahoma opioids case is the first to go to trial in the United States.
The outcome is being closely watched by plaintiffs in hundreds of other opioid lawsuits.
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