Court Battles

Opioid makers win major victory in California trial

Getty Images

Four drug companies accused of contributing to the U.S. opioid epidemic received a favorable, tentative ruling on Monday from a California court. 

In the decision, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson ruled that two California counties and the city of Oakland that had sued Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC and AbbVie Inc’s Allergen unit had failed to prove that they were liable for overdose deaths in their communities, according to the decision obtained by Reuters.

Santa Clara County, Los Angeles County and the city of Oakland argued billions of pills in their communities contributed to overdose deaths after the drugmakers marketed their product in ways that minimized their addictive nature and promoted them for more widespread use than intended. 

Wilson said even if these claims were true, the counties failed to prove that the advertisements directly caused a spike in medically inappropriate prescriptions, court documents showed.

“There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the result of the medically appropriate provision of pain medications to patients in need,” Wilson wrote in the tentative decision.

Tentative decisions are typical in California’s state courts, though the decision could change before it is made final. 

After more than 3,300 legal battles surrounding the opioid crisis, this marked the first time that drug companies have come out of a trial victorious, Reuters reported.

J&J said in a statement that its marketing was “appropriate and responsible,” and John Hueston, an attorney representing Endo, said the company’s “lawful conduct did not cause the widespread public nuisance at issue in plaintiffs’ complaint,” according to Reuters.

Teva called the ruling “a clear win for the many patients in the U.S. who suffer from opioid addiction,” according to a statement from the company.

Legal battles for drugmakers continue across the country. Other trials are in progress in New York against Teva and Allergan. In Ohio, pharmacy chains are also involved in another trial.

An additional trial involving the drug distributors recently finished hearing evidence in West Virginia, Reuters added.

Tags AbbVie Inc California Endo International PLC johnson & johnson Opioid epidemic Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video