Marketing agency CEO testifies as opioid trial enters 3rd week

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NORMAN, Okla. - As the civil trial against the nation's largest drugmaker enters its third week, a well-known businessman was presented as an expert witness for the state.

Renzi Stone, CEO and founder of the Oklahoma City-based advertising agency Saxum, was called to the stand in Judge Thad Balkman's courtroom Monday afternoon. Stone's testimony was centered around internal company documents from Johnson & Johnson, which he reviewed.

The drugmaker giant is being sued by the state of Oklahoma, accused of misrepresenting opioids and sparking "the worst man-made public health crisis," as described by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

"Frankly, I am blown away and impressed," Stone said. "The marketing materials, the depth of research, the quarterly review, it's breathtaking."

One document presented in court Monday specifically centered around the fetanyl patch Duragesic. The first paragraph stated its goal of increasing sales by 28 percent between the year 2001 and 2002.

State: "So, is it very clear that they are trying to increase their sales and make more money? From their own documents?"

Stone: "I don’t know how you could interpret it any other way."

Stone testified every company document that he's reviewed pushed the idea that pain was being under-treated. One for the drug Nucynta suggested there were "serious consequences" mismanaging and under-treating pain. The marketing strategy was common when launching a new product, Stone said.

"You want to establish that there’s a problem, and then you want to support the problem with your marketing messages and then you want to introduce a solution," he said.

Defense attorney Larry Ottaway, however, was quick to note there were several areas that Stone is not an expert in. This includes public health, FDA labels or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Ottaway asked Stone, if the drugs were so dangerous, why the state doesn't opt to outlaw them. Stone answered, he was not a doctor; however, there were necessary uses for them.

Following court Monday, the Oklahoma counsel for Janssen Pharamaceuticals, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson sent News 4 this statement:

“The State continues to pursue a one-size-fits-all case with witnesses who have no direct knowledge of or relation to Janssen’s actions or its medicines. We heard more guesswork and speculation today from a purported marketing expert who has never worked within this highly and tightly FDA-regulated industry. Facts matter, and those facts show Janssen’s marketing was squarely within the regulations and that it did everything a responsible manufacturer and seller of opioid pain medications should do.”

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