Oklahoma Attorney General dismisses several claims against drug companies in opioid lawsuit

NORMAN, Okla. – For years, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has been fighting prescription drug companies regarding the dangers of opioids.

State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahoma residents have died from opioid-related deaths than in vehicle crashes.

In 2017, Oklahoma sued 13 opioid manufacturers, alleging they fraudulently engaged in marketing campaigns that led to thousand of overdose addictions and deaths.

Last month, Hunter announced that Purdue Pharma agreed to a settlement of $270 million while the trial against the other drug companies appeared to remain on track.

On Thursday, Hunter dismissed without prejudice all claims other than its public nuisance claim against the companies. Officials say the public nuisance claim has always been the most important and consequential.

Hunter decided to dismiss the other claims since the defendants were tying up the court and the state’s attorneys with an array of pretrial motions.

“The defendants in this case have tried in every way imaginable to derail our trial date,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Judge Balkman has repeatedly denied requests to push the trial back multiple times, just as the Oklahoma Supreme Court has. Moving forward with the state’s public nuisance claim moots most of the issues raised by the defendants in discovery, allowing the parties and the judge to focus on preparing for this trial, set to begin in less than eight weeks.

The team and I remain laser focused on the goal we set since filing this lawsuit: holding those responsible for creating this crisis accountable and bring an end to the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma.”

Organizers say that the dismissal does not limit the state’s ability to reassert the claims in the future if necessary. Also, it does not reduce the amount of damages the state is seeking from the defendants in the lawsuit.

Sabrina Strong, the national counsel for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, released the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Attorney General dismissed most of the claims, which underscores their lack of merit. The evidence presented at trial will show that Janssen’s actions in the marketing and promotion of its important, FDA-approved prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible. We will continue to defend against the remaining baseless and unsubstantiated allegations.” 

The trial remains set to begin May 28.

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