Oklahoma is set to hold the first trial over whether drug manufacturers (including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Actavis, and others) should be held responsible for the national opioid crisis. Judge Thad Balkman has agreed to have the trial televised, which could expose the companies to an unprecedented level of public scrutiny as their attitudes toward the crisis and profits are explored.
The state contends that the drug manufacturers’ deceptive marketing worsened the epidemic and injured or endangered the health of Oklahoma citizens. The state could seek more than $1 billion from the companies, either in a settlement or at trial.
Oklahoma’s biggest target is Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which sells the Duragesic fentanyl patch and sold the opioid Nucynta (tapendtadol) until 2015. “Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible,” representatives from Janssen said in a statement. “The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated.”
The decision could provide leverage to the victor in the larger federal case to follow.