Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trial of Okla. lawsuit against opioid makers to be televised

Those interested in the many state legal battles against opioid manufacturers may want to pay attention to a case in Oklahoma that will likely be the first such lawsuit to go to trial on television. "Every detail of what promises to be a dramatic trial could be broadcast to the American public, potentially affecting the outcome of any future opioid trials," Christine Vestal reports for Stateline.

A larger case in Ohio that consolidates thousands of lawsuits brought by counties, communities, hospitals and others has been getting most media attention, is scheduled for trial in October. Most state attorneys general have chosen to file suit independently, and trial dates have been set in eight states, Vestal reports. The Oklahoma lawsuit, which targets Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Cephalon, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, is scheduled to go to trial earliest, on May 28.

Earlier state and federal lawsuits against drug companies have been mostly settled out of court and therefore kept out of the public eye. A deposition in Eastern Kentucky is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue, has been questioned under oath about the marketing and addictive nature of its product OxyContin. Purdue is appealing the order for its release.

Because the Oklahoma case will use similar legal concepts and evidence as the Ohio case, it "could presage many of the arguments the jury may be presented in the national case in the fall," Vestal reports. "And if the drug companies in Oklahoma offer a settlement, the proposal could precipitate a national settlement, some legal experts said."

The state will argue that drugmakers falsely claimed that opioid painkillers were safe, and that those false claims and "deceptive and misleading" marketing campaigns led to the deaths of thousands of Oklahomans and hurt the finances of the state and many of its businesses, consumers, communities and citizens, according to the original complaint.

"At a minimum," Vestal reports, "the Oklahoma trial would for the first time give the press and the American public full access to evidence and arguments aimed at showing that drug companies flooded local markets with opioid painkillers for more than a decade while knowing that the pills were highly addictive."

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