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Oklahoma’s Case Against Johnson & Johnson Moves into Defense Phase

— July 9, 2019

Oklahoma’s case against J&J claiming the company was the “kingpin” in the opioid crisis moves into the defense phase.

The state of Oklahoma’s case wrapped against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) after 22 days in trial.  Oklahoma’s case was a landmark one in the opioid litigation challenging a pharmaceutical company it referred to as the “kingpin” of the crisis in court documents.

Near the trial’s conclusion, the state’s witness, Oklahoma mental health commissioner Terri White, said J&J’s insistence that it has zero responsibility for the state’s opioid crisis “offends my decency.”

Under cross examination White shamed Johnson & Johnson, Janssen and its other subsidiaries for denying any wrongdoing, stating J&J contributed greater than 50% of the active ingredients in many opioid painkillers, including Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin.

“I feel like you all have repeatedly, through this trial, tried to downplay your role in all of the other products that were opioid products for which you provided the ingredients,” White said. “And I absolutely think that cannot go unnoticed.  That is part of the story but make no mistake I do believe Johnson & Johnson and Janssen oversupplied their own products as well.”  She added, “It’s absolutely about Janssen’s drugs and the drugs that Janssen provided the ingredients to make – and if I haven’t made that clear, please let me be very clear about that.”

Oklahoma’s Case Against Johnson & Johnson Moves into Defense Phase
Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

White also directed a heated statement towards Steve Brody after she felt her statements had been misconstrued.  She said, “I’m not sure if I’m not communicating clearly or if you’re not understanding what I’m saying, but your summaries of what I’m saying are not correct.”

White said Johnson & Johnson “unleashed a series of bombs” and pushed addictive opioids into Oklahoma, resulting in the overdose deaths of more than 6,100 “without telling us you were going to do this, without you still accepting any responsibility today.”  She added that J&J was better positioned to be proactive in the crisis and needs to stop blaming Oklahoma for not being more reactive.

We are the only reason, the only reason, that lives are being saved in the state – (then) you say to us, ‘You didn’t build bomb shelters fast enough,” she added. “You didn’t purchase enough bullet proof vests. You couldn’t run from us fast enough.’  No, I do not agree with that.”

As part of Oklahoma’s case, the state had originally intended White to be its final witness in the case but decided in the eleventh hour to ask Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman if another witness can take the stand at a later date.  The witness was on vacation at the time and could be called into court upon return.  In the interim, the judge granted the request “to call her out of turn,” but said J&J will now begin to lay out its defense.  The state would officially rest its case once the witness testifies, according to Balkman.

Once the trial transitions into the defense phase, it is expected to last several weeks.

“For four weeks, we have heard the state make vague, one-size-fits-all claims without any evidence that the company caused opioid abuse or misuse in Oklahoma,” J&J’s attorney John Sparks said. “Facts matter, and as we have said from the beginning and look forward to showing again in our case, the company’s marketing was squarely within the regulations, and it did everything a responsible manufacturer and seller of opioid pain medications should do.”


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