NORMAN, Oklahoma - In the beginning of week seven of the opioid trial, Johnson & Johnson wanted the trial to end and the judge heard from a Tulsa pain specialist, who frequently prescribes opioids to his patients.

Dr. Jeffrey Halford said he works closely with an addiction specialist, and testified he sends any and all of his patients he has suspicions about to be checked out by that doctor. He said he even does random pill counts and sees his patients who take painkillers more frequently to look for signs of addiction.            

Halford told the state's attorney he sees pharmaceutical sales reps two to three times a month. He admitted to the state that typically, these are younger, attractive women, but he says he has never been influenced by a sales reps to prescribe more opioids.

"The decision is always based on my medical knowledge, my individual judgment about the use of a medication, the appropriate use of a medication, and more specifically, the individual situation going on with the patient in front of me," Halford said. "I can't imagine a doctor solely relying on the information they received from a sales person whether to prescribe a drug or not."

Halford told the judge he does not view sales reps as any kind of pain expert, and always takes what they say with a grain of salt.

 

Johnson & Johnson asked the judge to end the case and rule in their favor, but the judge decided against this request.

The judge gave attorneys on both sides one hour to convince him why he should or shouldn't call off the whole trial.

Steve Brody with Johnson & Johnson said the state's argument that the drug maker caused a public nuisance by marketing and selling painkillers doesn't stand up in court. He argued it's the same as holding fast food restaurants like McDonald's accountable for the country's obesity problem.             

Brody criticized the state's plan to fix the opioid crisis, saying it is too grand, and too expensive.

"It would be in size and scale, more than twice the annual budget of the department of mental health and substance abuse services," he said. "Apparently the court would be in charge of administering and overseeing this massive state agency."

Oklahoma's attorney Brad Beckworth hit back with an impassioned speech.             

He called Johnson & Johnson's argument that they have first amendment rights to market their drugs "offensive" to people who have fought and served for our country, including some of his own family members.

"No man, no woman has ever served this country or laid down their life for this country so that a pharmaceutical company could come out and lie, or hook kids on opioids, or kill people! No one," Beckworth said.

"They don't care about helping the state. They don't care about being at the commission. They don't care about abating this crisis," he said. "They care about protecting their backside. That's it, that's the moral fabric of Johnson & Johnson right there."

The judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson letting the trial continue.