Judge Soon To Announce Decision In State's Opioid Trial

Friday, August 23rd 2019, 8:58 pm
By: News On 6

After more than a month of waiting, a Cleveland County judge will announce his decision in the state's opioid lawsuit against drug maker Johnson & Johnson on Monday.

The State of Oklahoma blames Johnson & Johnson for creating the state's painkiller crisis, largely in part by what they claim were poor marketing tactics. State's attorneys argued the company wrongfully marketed the drugs as safe and effective for everyday chronic pain use.

"They were the number one supplier in the history of the United States of opioids," State's attorney Brad Beckworth said. "They stood everything to gain."

Experts say it will cost $17.5 billion to fix the painkiller epidemic in Oklahoma over the next few decades. Beckworth said Johnson & Johnson should foot the bill for that, not taxpayers.

"The defense of Johnson & Johnson in this case, it defies logic," he said. "I mean where did they come from? Did we just have a bunch of addicted, troubled, opioid use disorder victims lying around in wait in the state, and somebody poured water on it in 1996, and it just sprouted, and it grew and grew? Where did it come from?"

J&J's attorney Larry Ottaway said the company created opioids it believed were different, safer, and more effective than other drugs on the market.

"They're innovative. They work," he said. "And they have advantages that no other opioids have, because this company took their responsibility to those patients seriously."

Ottaway said in his closing arguments that two other companies, Teva and Purdue Pharmaceuticals, settled before the trial even began.

He says there's a reason Johnson & Johnson stuck around.

"Only a company that believes it's innocent would come in and defend itself from an action brought by the state, on behalf of the state, to benefit the state, to be decided by a man working for the state sitting under the state seal," he said.

Judge Thad Balkman will deliver his decision Monday at 3 p.m.

News On 6's Taylor Newcomb will be in the courtroom. She and Lori Fullbright will provide full coverage of the decision, and each side's reaction to the conclusion of the historic trial.