US judge paves way for branded and generic opioid makers to face landmark October trial
A US judge has thwarted efforts by major drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies to reject claims that they played a pivotal role behind the opioid crisis that has ravaged the United States.
In doing so, district judge Dan Polster has cleared the path for a scheduled landmark trial, even as he pushes for a nationwide settlement, noted a Reuters report on Tuesday. Polster is presiding over more than 2,000 opioid lawsuits filed by states, counties and cities. Opioid-related overdoses have claimed almost 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, the CDC estimates.
In his ruling on Tuesday — one of seven decisions ahead of a scheduled October 21 trial by two Ohio counties against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and several other defendants — Polster found that the plaintiffs have presented ample evidence to try to prove that deceptive marketing practices by the defendants caused a sharp, harmful increase in opioid supply and failed to restrict diversion.
“A factfinder could reasonably infer that these failures were a substantial factor in producing the alleged harm suffered by Plaintiffs,” the judge wrote.
Apart from Purdue, other defendants include drugmakers Endo and J&J; distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson; pharmacy operators CVS Health, Rite Aid, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart.
Generic drug makers — including Allergan, Teva and Mallinckrodt — asserted that they did not promote unbranded opioids to prescribers, but the Cleveland-based judge also argued in favor of the plaintiffs that the allegations against manufacturers engaging in fraudulent marketing practices helped the entire opioid class (regardless of branded or generic).
In recent weeks, Purdue has offered $10-$12 billion to wash its hands off the mountain of lawsuits it is facing. J&J was hit with a $572 million fine by an Oklahoma court, but the drugmaker is looking to appeal that ruling.