Oklahoma Pins Johnson & Johnson For Opioid Epidemic

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In the Oklahoma state lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, Attorney General Mike Hunter secured $355M from the two defendants.

The state has now proposed a $17.5 billion abatement plan to abate the problem over the next 30 years from Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries, including Janssen Pharmaceuticals, by Hunter, characterizing them as the "kingpin" of an epidemic responsible for nearly 7,000 deaths of Oklahoma residents.

Hunter claimed that Johnson & Johnson is to be blamed for the Oklahoma opioid epidemic, while he is facing criticism from some of his own Republican colleagues about his team's deal-making and go-it-alone style.

The state's $355M deal with Purdue and Teva both faced criticism from lawmakers, who were left out on the settlement discussions and wanted to be responsible for dispersing funds. Hunter proposed the $200 million settlement from Purdue to be sent to a trust to fund an addiction studies center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa; however, this prompted lawmakers to pass a bill clarifying that any settlement funds should go to the state treasury. Following the settlement announced by Teva, the Republican governor and legislative leaders argued the deal violated the spirit of the new law and asked for intervention before a mediator was appointed and an agreement was reached. The money will be part of a special state fund that lawmakers will decide how to spend.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman is presiding over the Oklahoma trial, and District Judge Dan Polster is presiding over more than 1,900 lawsuits filed under MDL No. 2804 (In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation) by U.S. cities and counties, each seeking damages for costs associated with addiction and abuse.

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