PUBLISHED MAY 29, 2019

Oklahoma opioid lawsuit: What to know

Opioid Crisis protest
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The Story

Nearly every state has brought a lawsuit against the pharma industry for its alleged role in the opioid epidemic. Oklahoma’s is the first to go to trial.

How’d we get to this point?

The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in US history. Since the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people have died from opioid-related overdoses. Today, millions in the US are addicted to opioids, with an average of 130 people dying from opioid overdoses every day. In 2017, that amounted to 47,600 people – more than the number of people who died by guns, car crashes, or suicide that year.

So what’s being done about it?

In 2017, President Trump declared the problem a public health emergency. And last year Congress passed – and Trump signed – a law that does things like expand access to substance abuse treatment. But some have called out the gov for not doing enough to address the crisis. And states have also started taking matters into their own hands, by suing drugmakers for their alleged role in the crisis. There are roughly 2,000 lawsuits across state, local, and tribal governments. Most of those have been consolidated into a single case. But this week, Oklahoma became the first to go to trial.

Go on...

In 2017, Oklahoma sued Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin), Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson. It accused the drug companies of fueling the opioid crisis with deceptive marketing practices. Purdue Pharma and Teva settled out of court (to the tune of $270 million and $85 million, respectively). But Johnson & Johnson isn’t backing down.

Johnson & Johnson...the baby powder company?

Correct. It’s also the largest drugmaker in the country. Oklahoma’s legal strategy will be trying to prove that J&J created a public nuisance, arguing that the company harmed public health.

How’s that going to work?

We get more into both sides’ arguments, what’s up for debate, and the impact of this trial in theSkimm app. Every week, the app goes deep on a different news topic to give you the context you need to understand what's going in the world. Download the app now, and you get the first week free.

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