State wraps final witnesses in opioid trial, defense to begin Thursday

NORMAN, Okla. - The state's final witness compared the marketing and drugs of the nation's largest drug-maker to bullets and bombs.

Terri White, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, finished her testimony for the state Wednesday and ripped into Johnson & Johnson during cross-examination.

The company is being sued by the state for causing a public nuisance through its alleged role in the opioid crisis.

"Johnson & Johnson and Janssen unleashed bombs across the United States of America that landed squarely in Oklahoma that was in the form of a sales force that had 30 million dollars marketing behind it," Commissioner White said.

When asked by the defense, White testified she did not believe the state shared "even one percent" of the blame when it comes to the cause of the crisis and said the question "was incredibly offensive".

"We [state] are the only reason - the only reason - that lives are being saved in the state," she tearfully testified. "What you say to us is, 'you didn’t build bomb shelters fast enough. You didn’t purchase enough bulletproof vests. You couldn’t run from us fast enough'. No, I do not agree with that."

The company has long called the claims "far-reaching" and argued the state has no evidence directly tying them to the epidemic. News 4 received this statement from John Sparks, Oklahoma counsel for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson:

"For four weeks, we have heard the State make vague, one-size-fits-all claims without any evidence that the company caused opioid abuse or misuse in Oklahoma. Facts matter, and as we have said from the beginning and look forward to showing again in our case, the company's marketing was squarely within the regulations, and it did everything a responsible manufacturer and seller of opioid pain medications should do. The facts will also show the company’s medicines have helped patients with pain.

Additionally, the State’s far-reaching legal odyssey to grossly expand public nuisance law should send a chill through every cattleman, farmer, oil and gas producer and any company doing business in Oklahoma."

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter argues otherwise.

"We’ve demonstrated that the defendant engaged in shadowy collaborations and conspiracies with other manufacturers to “educate”...a word they like to use, I prefer brainwash…prescribers with pseudo-science and false studies," General Hunter said Wednesday.

Through a new ruling, Judge Thad Balkman is allowing the state to present another witness who may testify as early as next week. The defense is expected to present its first witness Thursday morning.

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