An Oklahoma judge on Monday will rule whether Johnson & Johnson should be held liable in a $17 billion suit alleging the drug producer’s marketing practices fed the opioid plague by causing a flood of painkillers out there.
The case by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter was the first to go to trial out of thousands of cases registered by state and native governments against opioid producers and distributors.
Judge Thad Balkman, of Cleveland County District Court in Norman, Oklahoma, is scheduled to declare his decision from the bench at 4 p.m. EDT.
Plaintiffs are strictly observing the case in about 2,000 opioid suits pending in front of a federal judge in Ohio who has been pushing for a settlement ahead of an October trial.
Opioids were involved in nearly 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, some 6,000 Oklahomans have died from opioid overtreatments, based on the state’s lawyers.
During a seven-week bench trial, attorneys for the state of Oklahoma claimed that J&J carried out a year-long advertising campaign that lessened the addictive painkillers’ risks and promoted their benefits.
The state’s lawyers called J&J an opioid “kingpin” and argued that its advertising and marketing efforts sparked a public annoyance as doctors over-prescribed the drugs, resulting in a surge in overdose deaths in Oklahoma.
J&J has refused wrongdoing. The drug producer in court has stated its advertising and marketing claims had scientific aid and that its painkillers – Duragesic and Nucynta – made up a small fraction of opioids given in Oklahoma.
Lawyers for New Jersey-based J&J argued in court-docket that the state’s case holds on an “original” interpretation of the state’s public problem law.