Opening statements in a historic opioid trial are expected in an Oklahoma courtroom on Tuesday, where the state is attempting to hold a pharmaceutical company to account for causing the opioid epidemic.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had already gotten OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to agree to a $270 million settlement ahead of trial. Hunter also settled with Teva Pharmaceuticals for $85 million. Now, Hunter is laser-focused on Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The case is already being dubbed a possible “road map” for other states to pursue cases against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis. AG Hunter said that he is “confident” in the state’s case and that he is “more convinced than we were when we began this enterprise that these companies are the proximate cause for the epidemic in our state and in our country.” Judge Thad Balkman is presiding.
The state alleges that Johnson & Johnson was “the kingpin behind this Public Health Emergency, profiting at every stage,” and creating a public nuisance, CNN reported.
Johnson & Johnson, on the other hand, is issuing a warning to fellow corporations that they could be next.
“The State ignores this well-established law and now argues that public nuisance allows them to compel any party allegedly contributing in any measure to a social problem to fund all programs that state administrators dream up to address it,” a statement from the company said. “This is not and should not be the law. It threatens every company and industry doing business in the State of Oklahoma.”
[Image via The Oklahoman screengrab]