Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects request to delay opioid trial

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request by drugmakers to delay the start of an upcoming trial against them in the state for allegedly helping to fuel the opioid epidemic.

Oklahoma’s case is expected to be the first state lawsuit against opioid manufacturers to go to trial.

The drugmakers had asked for a 100-day delay, arguing they needed more time to examine evidence from the attorney general.

In a statement, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the court rejected that request.

“By refusing to review Judge Balkman’s prior decision, we are still on track for trial, where we seek justice for Oklahomans who have been affected by the ongoing opioid epidemic. Every day that goes by, we lose more of our loved ones to overdoses or down the tragic road of addiction,” Hunter said.

Hunter in 2017 sued four drugmakers, claiming the effects of deceptive marketing campaigns over the last decade have fueled the state’s opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Cephalon and Janssen Pharmaceuticals deliberately marketed their drugs as safe for chronic pain management while downplaying the risks of opioid dependency and overstating the effectiveness of the drugs.

Nearly every state has filed lawsuits against drugmakers, distributors and retailers. Most of the cases do not have set court dates, so experts say the Oklahoma lawsuit will be watched closely.

A consolidated federal case that includes lawsuits brought by more than 1,500 counties, hospitals, tribes and others is set to be argued in late October in Cleveland.