Drug companies want Oklahoma trial delayed in opioid case

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/27/2019 12:00 PM
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Pharmaceutical companies have asked for a 100-day postponement of an Oklahoma trial accusing them of fraudulently marketing drugs that have fueled the nation’s opioid crisis.

Several states have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, but Oklahoma’s was the first set to go to trial on May 28. Attorneys for the 13 companies asked the judge to delay the start of the trial to Sept. 16, The Oklahoman reported. Attorneys for the state oppose the delay, calling the request “frivolous, desperate and disingenuous.”

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman has scheduled a hearing Friday to hear from both sides.

Oklahoma and other states filed their lawsuits in state courts seeking to have local juries determine the outcome.

“There is no way – no way – any of these defendants can face a jury,” Oklahoma’s attorneys said in a court filing. “They know it. Their witnesses know it. Their consultants know it. Their attorneys know it. Morality. Facts. Law. None of them align with the decades-long sinister conduct of these defendants.”

The company’s attorneys said they need more time to analyze “165,000 documents totaling almost 1.6 million pages” of evidence that the state’s attorneys didn’t hand over until Feb. 21.

The state’s attorneys countered that the companies have acted even slower, noting that the companies have turned over 480,000 documents containing more than 2.88 million pages since the state turned over its large volume of documents. They have asked Balkman to break the lawsuits up into separate cases against different drug companies, and then merge them back together at the time of trial.

Five of the accused drug distributers – Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis LLC; and Actavis Pharma, Inc. – have also requested that the cases be separated, but they don’t want the cases to be combined again later.

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