Oklahoma prosecutors blast J&J in first day of landmark opioid trial. Say drugmaker ran ‘deceitful, multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign’

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Oklahoma state prosecutors blasted Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers in the first day of a landmark opioid trial Tuesday, saying they rana “deceitful, multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign” that led to more than 46,000 deaths in the state over a decade.

In opening arguments in the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Oklahoma, state Attorney General Mike Hunter said J&J and others rushed to produce a “magic pill” in their pursuit of profits, while ignoring decades of scientific research that showed the dangers of opioids.

They “embarked on a cynical, deceitful, multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign to establish opioid analgesics as the magic drug,” Hunter said in his opening remarks. “Money may not be the root of all evil but … money can make people and businesses do bad things. Very bad things.”

Lawyers for the state and J&J appeared in a court Tuesday in the first state trial tackling the opioid epidemic. Hunter said J&J, OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical all downplayed the addiction risk of opioids while overstating the benefits.

The state claims the companies’ actions created an oversupply of painkillers and a public nuisance that will cost $12.7 billion to $17.5 billion to remedy.

J&J is the only defendant left in the case. Purdue Pharma, which has faced the brunt of the blame for the nationwide opioid epidemic, reached a $270 million settlement with the Oklahoma attorney general’s office in March. Oklahoma also resolved its claims against Teva on Sunday for $85 million.

J&J,  which marketed the painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta, has previously denied any wrongdoing. It says its marketing efforts were proper and that the state cannot prove it caused the opioid epidemic.

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