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Johnson & Johnson Opioid Trial Begins in Oklahoma Lawsuit

Drugmakers named in the lawsuit denied claims made by the state

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Johnson & Johnson, Opioid Trial
State's attorney Brad Beckworth delivers an opening statement during the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Oklahoman, May 28, 2019. VOA

A civil lawsuit brought by the state of Oklahoma against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson went to trial Tuesday over the company’s alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The first-of-its-kind trial, which holds opioid manufacturers responsible for the drug crisis gripping the country, could have a large impact on other states seeking similar compensation.

In opening statements, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called the prescription opioid epidemic the “worst man-made public health crisis in the history of our state and country.”

Hunter further characterized Johnson & Johnson as being motivated by greed and having been engaged in “a cynical, deceitful multimillion-dollar brainwashing campaign.”

Johnson & Johnson, Opioid Trial
Larry Ottaway, one of the attorneys for Johnson & Johnson, listens during the state’s opening arguments, May 28, 2019, in Norman, Oklahoma. VOA

Drugmakers named in the lawsuit denied claims made by the state, which is located in the U.S. Great Plains. Two of those companies settled with the state before the trial began.

In an opening statement, Larry Ottaway, a Johnson & Johnson defense lawyer, told the court that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, advertised its drugs in compliance with a Food and Drug Administration consensus that said opioids “only rarely caused addiction.”

The state of Oklahoma alleges Johnson & Johnson created a surplus of painkillers and is responsible for creating a “public nuisance.”

“If you have an oversupply, people will die,” said Brad Beckworth, a private attorney hired by the state of Oklahoma. In explaining some of the numbers behind the crisis, he told the court there were 135 opioid pills available for every adult in Cleveland County, which has a population of about 280,000. Cleveland County is where the trial is being held.

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County District Judge Thad Balkman will decide the case, in lieu of a jury.

On Sunday, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals Ltd. reached an $85 million settlement with the state. Teva said in a statement, “The settlement does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company. Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way.”

In March, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, settled with the state for $270 million.

Other lawsuits

Nationwide, states, cities and tribal governments have brought more than 1,600 lawsuits against drugmakers, seeking compensation for money spent addressing the opioid epidemic.

Johnson & Johnson, Opioid Trial
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson went to trial Tuesday over the company’s alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic. VOA

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 388 overdose deaths involving opioids in Oklahoma in 2017, a rate of 10.2 deaths per 100,000 persons. The national rate was 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

In his opening statement, Attorney General Hunter said opioid overdoses had killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,442 in 1999 to 17,029 in 2017, the latest year for such data. Drug overdose deaths involving any opioid — prescription opioids (including methadone), synthetic opioids and heroin — rose from 18,515 deaths in 2007 to 47,600 deaths in 2017, according to the CDC. (VOA)

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Amazon Gets Order From Court To Temporarily Block Pentagon Project By Microsoft

Microsoft, however, never responded directly to the AWS complaint

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Amazon
Amazon alleged in its complaint -- filed against the US government's decision to award JEDI contract to the "less competitive" Microsoft -- that Trump abused his position to put "improper pressure" on decision-makers for personal gains and show his hatred towards Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who owns The Washington Post. VOA

Stunned at losing the prestigious $10 billion Pentagon Cloud project, Amazon has sought ‘preliminary injunction’ from the court to temporarily block Microsoft from starting work on the project.

According to a CNN Business report citing a court filing on Tuesday, retail giant’s Cloud arm will seek a preliminary injunction to “prevent the issuance of substantive task orders under the contract”. Amazon’s request will be submitted by Jan. 24. Microsoft is set to start its work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud contract from February 11.

“DoD’s substantial and pervasive errors are hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the President’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the President himself, ‘screw Amazon.’ Basic justice requires re-evaluation of proposal and a new award decision,” read the court filing. Amazon last year filed a suit with the US Court of Federal Claims contesting the decision.

Meanwhile, undeterred by Amazon’s lawsuit, Microsoft is going the whole hog on recruiting people for the project it won despite AWS being the favourite. According to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and chief legal officer, “we have if anything been moving even faster since that contract was awarded”.

Amazon alleged in its complaint — filed against the US government’s decision to award JEDI contract to the “less competitive” Microsoft — that Trump abused his position to put “improper pressure” on decision-makers for personal gains and show his hatred towards Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who owns The Washington Post.

In the formal protest unsealed at the US Court of Federal Claims, Amazon said the US President “launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against the company in an effort to undermine its bid and hurt its founder and CEO Bezos, “his perceived political enemy”.

Microsoft
Meanwhile, undeterred by Amazon’s lawsuit, Microsoft is going the whole hog on recruiting people for the project it won despite AWS being the favourite. Pixabay

Microsoft, however, never responded directly to the AWS complaint. The Department of Defense (DoD), however, said that the procurement process was conducted by seasoned procurement experts.

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“The department is confident in the JEDI award and remains focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible,” DoD said in a statement. (IANS)