Opioid Epidemic Trial Against Johnson & Johnson Continues In Oklahoma

May 29, 2019

The second day of the Oklahoma opioid trial saw emotional testimony from a parent who lost his son to an overdose. The state is seeking billions of dollars from opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay for the public health crisis.

The state called Craig Box as a witness. His son Austin Box, a former University of Oklahoma football player died in 2011 after becoming addicted to opioids following a sports injury.

“We heard from so many parents…that have lost children under similar circumstances as us, that had no idea, that had no clue,” said Box.

Another witness on Wednesday was a leading pain expert who testified that Johnson & Johnson understated opioid abuse risk to doctors. Recognized as a “key opinion leader,’’ Dr. Russell Portenoy said in a taped testimony that Big Pharma “overstated the benefits of chronic-opioid therapy’’ and “understated the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose."

The state says those misleading sales tactics created a “public nuisance’’ that puts the defendant and opioid producer on the hook for social costs tied to the epidemic.

Portenoy is a medical-school professor who studied pain for more than 30 years. At one time he was paid by Johnson & Johnson other drug companies to promote opioids but has now agreed to testify against the industry.

Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson say they went to great lengths to develop products that were difficult to abuse before putting them on the market.