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J&J fails latest bid to ‘cut and run’ from Oklahoma opioid trial: AG

cleveland county courthouse

Prosecutors presented their case against J&J at trial in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. (Cleveland County, OK)

After prosecutors rested their case in the Oklahoma opioid lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson kicked up an argument to toss out the case altogether. The state didn’t offer enough evidence to show J&J really caused the addiction epidemic, the company claimed.

The judge didn’t buy it. 

In a Monday ruling, Judge Thad Balkman said the case will proceed as planned, noting that prosecutors had delivered sufficient evidence to warrant continuing the trial.

J&J’s attorneys had argued that prosecutors put the judge in an “untenable position” because if he ends up ruling against the company—and awards the state its billions in abatement costs—he’d be usurping the legislative process and setting health policy, Legal Newsline reports.

The company also argued the state’s prosecution under its nuisance law is inappropriate. 

Oklahoma’s attorney general Mike Hunter said in a statement the motion was J&J’s “latest attempt to cut and run from the crisis it created.”

“In every turn of this case, Johnson & Johnson has attempted to keep the judge and the public from seeing the truth,” he added. “Luckily, Judge Balkman has seen through all of these desperate motions that have attempted to remove, halt or delay the trial and justice for the thousands of deaths due to the epidemic.” 

In the trial that began on May 28, the state has presented evidence that the company created a “mutant” poppy strain in 1994 that allowed the company to produce large amounts of opioids. J&J met with Purdue for years to determine supply needs and the companies eventually teamed up, the state said. Further, the company marketed opioids as safe for routine pain treatment for more than a decade. 

In Oklahoma, the company’s sales reps visited doctors 150,000 times, the state said. The drugmaker targeted women and returning war veterans for its medicines, prosecutors showed, and engaged with “front groups” that amplified its marketing message.  

The state’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Terri White said at trial that it would cost more than $17 billion to address the state’s crisis. As the “primary cause,” J&J should pay the expenses, prosecutors say.

Oklahoma originally sued Purdue Pharma and Teva in addition to J&J, but those companies settled for a combined $355 million.