Johnson & Johnson faces trial over opioid disaster in Oklahoma

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Prosecutors say the agency created a public nuisance in Oklahoma costing billions of dollars, a declare which Johnson & Johnson denies

Johnson & Johnson, one of many world’s largest drug producers, has gone on trial in a multi-billion greenback lawsuit by the US state of Oklahoma.

Prosecutors accuse the agency of deceptively advertising and marketing painkillers and downplaying dependancy dangers, fuelling a so-called “opioid epidemic”.

Johnson & Johnson denies wrongdoing and says it marketed merchandise responsibly.

It’s the first of two,000 circumstances introduced by state, native and tribal governments in opposition to pharmaceutical companies within the US.

On common, 130 Individuals die from an opioid overdose daily, in keeping with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

In 2017, of the 70,200 individuals who died from an overdose, 68% concerned a prescription or unlawful opioid.

In its court docket submitting, Oklahoma alleged that Johnson & Johnson was the “kingpin” behind “the worst man-made public well being disaster in [the] state’s historical past,” rising and importing uncooked supplies which different drug-makers used for their very own merchandise.

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Media captionOn America’s path of destruction

What occurred in court docket?

In opening statements within the metropolis of Norman on Tuesday, the state mentioned that Johnson & Johnson together with Purdue Pharma – which produces the prescription painkiller OxyContin – and Israel-based Teva Prescription drugs had pushed docs to prescribe extra opioids within the 1990s by utilizing deceptive advertising and marketing.

State lawyer Brad Beckworth mentioned Johnson & Johnson did so by advertising and marketing opioids as “protected and efficient for on a regular basis ache” however downplayed addictive qualities and thus helped to create a drug oversupply.

“When you have an oversupply, individuals will die,” he mentioned.

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Lawyer Brad Beckworth made opening remarks for the state

Mike Hunter, Oklahoma’s lawyer basic, advised the court docket that it was time to carry the businesses “accountable for their actions”.

“That is the worst man-made public well being disaster in our state’s historical past. To place it bluntly, this disaster is devastating Oklahoma,” he mentioned.

For Johnson & Johnson, lawyer Larry Ottaway mentioned the corporate’s advertising and marketing statements had been no totally different to these made by the US Meals and Drug Administration in 2009 which mentioned painkillers, when correctly managed, hardly ever precipitated addictions.

“We’re not mocking anybody, however info are cussed issues,” he mentioned.

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The courtroom in Norman, Oklahoma, was packed for the listening to

What is the background?

The state argues that Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance which can price between $12.7bn (£10.02bn) and $17.5bn (£13.8bn) to treatment over the subsequent 20 to 30 years.

However the firm argues that the general public nuisance legislation doesn’t apply on this occasion.

Johnson & Johnson – most likely finest identified for its child shampoo and child powder – produces a fentanyl patch which may be prescribed for extreme ache.

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The state of Ohio has a excessive price of overdose deaths, although this girl survived

Fentanyl belongs to a category of medication often known as opioid analgesics, which change how the physique feels and responds to ache. It’s also used as a leisure drug, usually blended with heroin and cocaine.

Due to its excessive revenue margin for traffickers, fentanyl has grow to be a big a part of America’s opioid disaster.

The newest authorized case is the most recent in a string in opposition to painkiller producers over prescribed drugs.

Earlier this month, Teva Prescription drugs agreed to an $85m (£67m) settlement with Oklahoma over the same lawsuit which claimed its opioids had contributed to the deaths of 1000’s of individuals.

Purdue Pharma additionally reached a $270m settlement with Oklahoma in a separate case. The rich Sackler household, which owns the agency, has been charged with fraudulently transferring cash from the corporate to guard its funds from litigation.

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