Four drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd have gone to trial over claims they helped fuel an opioid crisis that has resulted in nearly 500,000 overdose deaths in the US, reports Reuters. The trial is one of several looking to hold companies accountable for the overdose and abuse crisis that are set to take place this year after the coronavirus pandemic delayed litigation, putting renewed pressure on them to enter into multi-billion-dollar settlements.
J&J, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC and Abbvie‘s Allergan unit are accused by several California counties of deceptively marketing painkillers in ways that downplayed their addictive risks to boost sales.
If the companies are held liable by Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson following a trial conducted virtually, the counties say they should have to pay $50bn to help foot the costs of abating the public nuisance they created plus penalties.
J&J in a statement called its marketing of the drugs “appropriate and responsible,” Israel-based Teva said it will defend itself against these “unproven allegations.” Endo and Allergan declined to comment.
Reuters reports that more than 3,400 lawsuits brought largely by states and local governments are pending against companies accused of fuelling the opioid epidemic.