The spotlight is on Oklahoma this week as the nation’s first trial against drugmakers blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis takes place.
Opening arguments started Tuesday with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter saying powerful painkillers led to the “worst manmade public health crisis” in U.S. history. Lawyers for consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson and several subsidiaries are slated to begin making their case later Tuesday at state court in Norman, Okla.
Hunter alleges drugmakers Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma LP and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. helped create deceptive marketing campaigns that overstated opioids’ effectiveness and underplayed the risk of addiction, Reuters reported.
The state has settled with Purdue and Teva leaving Johnson & Johnson last. Teva announced Sunday it settled for $85 million. Purdue settled with the state in March for $270 million.
“The damage defendants’ false and deceptive marketing campaigns caused to the state of Oklahoma is catastrophic,” the lawsuit stated. “As a result of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the state of Oklahoma paid, and continues to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs that stem from prescription opioid dependency.”
Johnson & Johnson marketed painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta. Oklahoma claimed the company “created an oversupply of painkillers and a public nuisance that will cost $12.57 billion to $17.5 billion to remedy,” Reuters reported.
The outcome of the trial could pave the way for some 1,500 opioid trials to be resolved. The trial could also expose documents and testimony that show what the companies knew, when they knew it and how they responded.
Opioids were “involved in” more than 47,600 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, making up approximately 67.8 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Johnson & Johnson has denied wrongdoing and said in a statement Sunday that it was “ready for trial.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.