Opioid lawsuit continues to advance

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter commended Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman for granting the state’s requested May 2019 trial date for its lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for their role in creating the opioid epidemic.

Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to have a trial date set among the multitude of states across the country suing drug manufacturers.

Hunter said the 2019 trial date will allow the state sufficient time to gather evidence and prove its case.

“We appreciate the urgency Judge Balkman saw in getting the case to trial,” Hunter said. “Rather than dragging it out longer, which is what the companies had requested, Oklahomans who have suffered immeasurably from the years of fraudulent marketing campaigns will see this case resolved sooner rather than later.

“The state’s case is solid and our team is prepared to hold these companies accountable for their role in the deadliest drug epidemic the state and nation have ever seen.”

Hunter filed the lawsuit against the nation’s leading opioid manufacturers in June 2017, claiming the effects of deceptive marketing campaigns over the last decade have fueled the state’s opioid epidemic.  Manufacturers responded to the lawsuit with motions to dismiss, which Judge Balkman ruled against last December, allowing discovery in the case to begin.

In the last three years, nearly 3,000 Oklahomans have died from overdose deaths and more than 1,300 newborns have tested positive for substance exposure. In 2016 Oklahoma ranked first in the number of milligrams of opioids distributed per adult, and in the 14 counties surrounding Tulsa, there were enough opioids for every man, woman and child to have 90 pills.