Judge refuses pharmaceutical firms’ request to delay opioid trial, set for May

Modesto Morganelli
Marzo 11, 2019

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and two other drugmakers on Friday lost a bid to delay a landmark trial set for May in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by Oklahoma's attorney general accusing them of helping fuel an opioid abuse and overdose epidemic in the state.

"The wheels of justice will continue to turn unimpeded toward a May 28 trial date", Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter argued that - in the interest of justice - the trial should not be delayed. The judge has said cameras will be allowed in the courtroom - a decision the drugmakers fought.

The drug companies contended they needed more time to review 1.6 million pages of evidence that they didn't receive from the state until February 21. They said the state had produced 1.6 million pages of documents, threatening the "fairness and ultimate result of any trial". The State did not target legislators.

Today's ruling was in response to a motion by the defendants, asking the judge to delay the start of the trial for 100 days. "We remain steadfast in our mission to ending this nightmarish epidemic and the ravages the opioid epidemic has left in its wake in Oklahoma".

A total of 36 states have filed cases against pharmaceutical companies in state courts. The other 14 states are investigating whether to bring suits, as well.

In the past three years, almost 3,000 people have died of overdose deaths in Oklahoma and more than 1,300 newborns have tested positive for exposure to opioids, according to the attorney general's office.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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