NORMAN, Okla. - Craig Box was the first witness to testify Wednesday in the ongoing trial against drug manufacturer giant Johnson & Johnson.
Box is the father of Austin Box, who was described as a 'joy' and 'special young man'. In court, his father noted a series of back and knee injuries during his son's football career in high school and at the University of Oklahoma.
Austin Box died in 2011 from an overdose with several opioids found in his system. This was days after his college graduation.
"I can’t explain what happens to you as a parent when a child dies," Box said. "We heard from so many parents across the that have lost children in similar circumstances, same story as us and had no idea. Had no clue."
Box testified for the state Wednesday in the nation's first major civil case over the opioid crisis. The state is accusing Johnson & Johnson of deceptively marketing painkillers and downplaying the risks of addiction.
According to Box, his son was found unconscious in El Reno when he died in 2011; however, he was not aware of which companies distributed the drugs found in his system.
"It didn't matter," Box said.
Larry Ottaway, an attorney representing Johnson & Johnson and Janssen -- whose parent company is Johnson & Johnson -- questioned whether Austin ever used a fentanyl patch called Duragesic or a pill called Nucynta. Both are products of Janssen.
"I don’t know if he did or didn’t candidly," Box answered.
Following Wednesday morning's testimony, News 4 was provided this statement from former state senator John Sparks and current Oklahoma counsel for Janssen and Johnson & Johnson:
"The impact of drug abuse and addiction is tragic, which is why the company has always supported the safe and appropriate use of its prescription pain medications. As was made clear in court, no one claims this heartbreaking incident involved Janssen’s medicines. And more broadly, the State hasn’t even tried to show that the Company’s products are a cause of the crisis."
The state also played a recorded testimony in court Wednesday with Dr. Russell Portenoy who is the director of the MJHS Institute for Innovation in Palliative Care and Chief Medical Officer of MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care. MJHS is the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, Inc. in New York.
Dr. Portenoy said during the course of his career, he has been paid by pharmaceutical companies including Johnson & Johnson for things like speaking engagements. Portenoy claims companies have used his statements to portray opioids and effective with including the risks.
The final witness called by the state on Wednesday was a corporate representative for Johnson & Johnson. Her testimony is expected to last through Friday.