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Oklahoma’s Attorney General Makes Final Bid to Hold J&J Responsible

Oklahoma’s attorney general Wednesday made his final offer to pressure Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay $17 billion for its part in stoking the opioid epidemic, saying the drugmaker’s “extreme” advertising and marketing caused a supply glut of addictive medicines and overdose deaths.

Attorney General Mike Hunter in brief recorded in a state court in Norman, Oklahoma, argued that proof presented during the first trial nationally in litigation over the epidemic confirmed J&J was “reason of this crisis.”

The state’s lawyers mentioned proof presented during the seven-week trial that started in May confirmed J&J’s decades-long advertising campaign convinced doctors and the general public that opioids could be a “go-to treatment for everything from headaches to normal fever.”

They said J&J and its subsidiaries “deserted all standards of responsible conduct in their blind resolve to generate income from their medicines,” creating public trouble in the form of an opioid crisis that since 2000 has killed 6,000 Oklahomans.

Opioids were involved in nearly 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, per the U.S. Facilities for Disease Control and Prevention.

J&J countered in its brief that while opioid abuse is an actual problem, its Duragesic and Nucynta had been a tiny part of all opioids prescribed in Oklahoma. It further mentioned its advertising and marketing claims had scientific assistance.

New Jersey-based J&J’s attorneys further wrote that the state’s case rested on “radical theories” unmoored from over a century of court cases interpreting the state’s public nuisance regulation, which it said only applies to property disputes.

However, the state’s legal professionals said applying the state’s public nuisance statute to the plague was not an unprecedented enlargement of the law.

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