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State’s opioid case on hold as pharmaceutical company seeks ruling to move case to federal court

OKLAHOMA CITY - The state lawsuit against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell opioid medications is on hold after one of the defendants asked a federal judge to move the case to federal court.

Purdue Pharmaceutical filed a notice in Oklahoma federal court Wednesday to remove the case from Cleveland County and have it join a number of ongoing opioid-related cases in an Ohio federal court. Purdue Pharma is not commenting, but according to the filing, the company argued the state is trying to replace federal FDA regulations with how the state views the drugs should be regulated, labeled and marketed.

Thursday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called Purdue Pharma's effort to move the case a breach of agreement and questioned the timing of the filing as depositions were scheduled over the coming days.

"The company deceitfully claims the lawsuit includes federal issues that Cleveland Co. district court has no jurisdiction over," said Hunter during a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Purdue is simply abusing the legal system in order to drag out the litigation for as long as possible."

Hunter filed a lawsuit against Purdue and 12 other companies last year, alleging fraudulent marketing caused a health crisis in the state. Oklahoma is one of more than two dozen states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers. A jury trial is scheduled for next May.

Hunter filed a motion in federal court Thursday evening, calling for the case to remain under state jurisdiction in Cleveland County and asked for an emergency hearing on the matter. As the matter is hashed out in federal court, Hunter said it essentially freezes the state case until the judge's ruling.

"Our hope is the judge will set this in the next several days," Hunter said.