Oklahoma’s state attorney general told a judge Tuesday, May 28, corporate greed is responsible for an opioid crisis that has cost Oklahoma thousands of lives and will take billions of dollars to repair.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said, “Listen, the state’s attitude about today is, we feel really good about the beginning of the case. We felt like in a very illustrative and compelling way during our opening, we established for the judge that there is a big picture here that Johnson & Johnson Janssen is in this up to their neck—this being a collaborative effort on the part of the industry. The industry being those who sold, marketed, and misrepresented opioid analgesics.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter opened the state’s case against consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson and several subsidiaries by saying the powerful painkillers have led to the “worst man-made public health crisis” in U.S. history.
The state alleges drugmakers extensively marketed highly addictive opioids for years in a way that overstated their effectiveness and underplayed the risk of addiction.
Lawyers for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson said the products the company manufactured were not just legal but were heavily regulated.
Janssen attorney Larry Ottaway told the judge that the drugs are important because they can help people manage debilitating pain.
Hunter explained that these companies “ignored centuries of experience, well-documented scientific histories of deadly addiction epidemics, and embarked on a cynical, deceitful multimillion-dollar brainwashing campaign to establish opioid analgesics as the magic drug.”
Drugmakers deny those claims.
Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and several subsidiaries began making their case Tuesday. Two other pharmaceutical companies have settled with Oklahoma.
The trial could bring to light documents and testimony that show what the companies knew, when they knew it, and how they responded.
The outcome could also shape negotiations on how to resolve the roughly 1,500 opioid lawsuits filed by state, local, and tribal governments. Those have been consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.