Defense Rests in Bellwether Case Against Opioid Drug Industries

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The last arguments from the defense were heard in the $17.5B bellwether opioid crisis lawsuit against Johnson& Johnson, reported the Courthouse News Service last month.

The state Oklahoma sued Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in 2017 on claims of fraud, unjust enrichment, public nuisance and violation of state Medicaid laws for allegedly pushing doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers while downplaying the addiction risks and overstating their benefits.

Purdue settled in March for $270 million. Israel-based Teva reached a similar settlement in May for $85 million – two days before the trial began, according to Court House News service.

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary are the only remaining defendants. In the  weeks before trial, the state dropped all claims except its public nuisance claim to prevent further delays caused by defense appeals, said Courthouse News.

“For its last witness during the seven-week bench trial, the defense called Dr. Terrell Phillips of Oklahoma City. He explained that many insurers and workers’ compensation laws reimburse doctors for only “reasonable and necessary” treatment that excludes physical therapy, counseling, injections and surgery. He said that leaves doctors with no choice but to prescribe opioids over the excluded treatment options.

“Phillips testified the situation leaves him effectively ‘handcuffed.’ He said patients with chronic pain are left improperly treated, leading to even depression and suicide.

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