Defense rests in opioid trial, closing arguments set for Monday

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NORMAN, Okla. -- The defense counsel for the nation's largest drugmaker has rested its case on the seventh week of trial.

Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson is being sued by the state of Oklahoma, which claims the company fueled the state's raging opioid crisis by oversupplying drugs and downplaying the risks of addiction through deceptive marketing.

The defense offered Dr. Terrell Phillips, an anesthesiologist based in Oklahoma City, as one of their final witnesses Friday.

Dr. Phillips said his clinic sees hundreds of chronic pain patients each week. However, he felt there were many more in Oklahoma who are not being treated due to changes in CDC guidelines and regulations from state boards.

"Or statements made the Attorney General that he’s coming after doctors who’s prescribing opioids," Phillips said. "That fear has left many primary care physicians saying they will no longer treat chronic pain patients."

Phillips also testified he would not use the term 'epidemic' when describing the issue of opioid abuse or overdose. The state pointed to a taped speech from 2016 when Phillips referred to it exactly as an 'epidemic'.

"This is a serious topic and since we’ve got an epidemic, [we've got to] stop beating around the bush," he said in 2016. "Everybody here knows how we got in this situation, that they told us were under prescribing. We need to prescribe more."

Untying his tie during cross-examination, attorney Brad Beckworth asked the witness "So you know how I taught you about that knot? This is something I learned about that knot. You can really make something look hard and complex, but it takes about one second to unravel. Doesn’t it?"

"Yes," Phillips answered.

On Friday, the Oklahoma counsel for Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. released this statement:

"In just over two weeks, Janssen has laid waste to the State’s far-reaching case which it built on misstatements and distortions. Our case has continued to support the fact that Janssen did everything a responsible company should do – appropriately educating physicians on the risks and benefits of its products while providing essential pain treatment options to Oklahomans. The State’s sweeping allegations simply don’t hold water, and we look forward to presenting our closing arguments on Monday."

Both the state and defense will be allowed two hours each for closing arguments.

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