A California lawyer is accusing four drugmakers of assisting the deadly opioid epidemic after allegedly falsely marketing their drugs and downplaying potential risks during the early stages of a multi-billion dollar trial on Monday.
Several counties are accusing Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International Plc, and AbbVie Inc’s Allergan unit of being responsible for the United States’ drug crisis which has resulted in nearly 500,000 deaths due to opioids overdose in the last 20 years.
Los Angeles, Orange, and Santa Clara counties said the drugmakers will have to pay more than $50 billion if found liable for the crimes to cover the costs of abating the public nuisance they created along with fees for penalties.
Fidelma Fitzpatrick, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told the Orange County Superior Court the drugmakers had a deadly legacy of falsely marketing opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain. The legal expert said the efforts caused an enormous supply of addictive pills going into the state and the United States.
“The evidence will show each of these companies, all of them, knew what would happen: that their opioids would cause the crushing burden of addiction, overdose, and death that California and its people have experienced said Fitzpatrick.
However, defense lawyers representing the companies argued the drugs the accused supplied accounted for a small portion of the total opioid market. He also said doctors were notified of the risks. He argued that counties were not able to connect the health crisis with the companies.
“You won’t hear from a single doctor who was ever misled,” Teva’s lawyer, Collie James, said. “They did not cause any opioid crisis, and they did not cause any public nuisance,” J&J’s lawyer, Mike Yoder, said.
Endo’s lawyer, John Hueston, said communities were focusing on a small number of “innocuous statements” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved. “That’s game over. Under the law, whatever the FDA says was gospel,” he said, Reuters reported.
Across the country, more than 3,300 similar lawsuits over the opioid crisis are pending. In 2019, there was one other case that went to trial and succeeded in Oklahoma, winning a $465 million judgment against J&J.