Opioid Company Trial Wraps Up First Week In Oklahoma The first civil trial seeking to hold a pharmaceutical company accountable for the opioid crisis has finished its first week in Oklahoma.
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Opioid Company Trial Wraps Up First Week In Oklahoma

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Opioid Company Trial Wraps Up First Week In Oklahoma

Opioid Company Trial Wraps Up First Week In Oklahoma

Opioid Company Trial Wraps Up First Week In Oklahoma

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/728878846/728878847" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The first civil trial seeking to hold a pharmaceutical company accountable for the opioid crisis has finished its first week in Oklahoma.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The first civil trial that could hold a pharmaceutical company accountable for the opioid crisis wrapped up its first week in Oklahoma. The state is accusing the drug giant Johnson & Johnson of downplaying their products' risks of addiction, as Jackie Fortier of StateImpact Oklahoma reports.

JACKIE FORTIER, BYLINE: In his opening remarks Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter didn't mince words.

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MIKE HUNTER: They embarked on a cynical, deceitful, multimillion-dollar brainwashing campaign to establish opioid analgesics as the magic drug.

FORTIER: The state's lawsuit says that campaign by Johnson & Johnson drove up sales of powerful painkillers, leading to addiction and death. Johnson & Johnson pushed back hard. Their lawyers argued that opioids are legal drugs and blamed the state for not effectively monitoring the prescribing habits of physicians. Here's their lead attorney, Larry Ottaway, reading from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

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LARRY OTTAWAY: States as regulators of health care practice have the responsibility and authority to monitor and correct inappropriate and illegal prescribing.

FORTIER: Ottaway said Oklahoma couldn't tie any deaths directly to the company's products. He said that the company's goal was to help patients.

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OTTAWAY: Serious, chronic pain is a soul-stealing, life-robbing thief.

FORTIER: Oklahoma's lawyers grilled Johnson & Johnson's corporate representative Kimberly Deem-Eshleman for days on the stand, asking her about thousands of sales calls that drug representatives made on Oklahoma doctors.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You wanted to make more money.

KIMBERLY DEEM-ESHLEMAN: We are a for-profit organization, company, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You bet.

FORTIER: The state says those misleading sales tactics created a public nuisance that puts the defendant on the hook for social costs tied to the epidemic. The courtroom heard emotional testimony from Craig Box. His son, Austin Box, a former University of Oklahoma football player, died in 2011 after becoming addicted to opioids following a sports injury.

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CRAIG BOX: We heard from so many parents across the...

FORTIER: Box stopped to collect himself while speaking of his son's death.

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BOX: That have lost children under similar circumstances, the same story as us, had no idea, had no clue.

FORTIER: The Oklahoma case sets the stage for about 2,000 other civil lawsuits around the country trying to hold the opioid companies accountable. For NPR News, I'm Jackie Fortier in Norman, Okla.

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