Big Opioid Trial Set for Tuesday in Oklahoma

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Dozens of attorneys have sharpened their strategies in a courtroom that will host what is expected to be the longest and highest-stakes trial in Oklahoma history, Stateline reports. On the state’s side, the battle against opioid drugmakers is personal. One attorney lost a niece to an opioid overdose, and another’s son, who had an opioid addiction, died in a motorcycle accident. Far outnumbering them are attorneys representing Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Pretrial hearings before Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman served as a sort of dress rehearsal for opening arguments Tuesday in Oklahoma v. Purdue Pharma, the first public trial to emerge from about 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nation’s raging opioid crisis.

It will be the first time Americans will hear the full scope of arguments in any of the lawsuits claiming that false and aggressive marketing by U.S. painkiller manufacturers caused an opioid overdose crisis that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says killed nearly 218,000 Americans between 1999 and 2017. “I expect a very spirited trial,” said local attorney and author Bob Burke, who was asked by the court to manage public and press access to the proceedings. He has received 190 requests for press passes. A live video feed will be available to the press, which also will have access to a blizzard of evidence and taped testimony, much of it from luminaries in the medical and public health fields. A settlement in the case is still possible from Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest drugmaker, or Teva, the third-largest generic drugmaker in the world. In March, the lead defendant, Purdue Pharma, settled with the state for $270 million.

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