Oklahoma lawsuit against opioid makers back in state court

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/09/2018 03:30 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A U.S. judge determined on Aug. 3 that a lawsuit the state of Oklahoma filed against the makers of opioids does not “necessarily rise” to a federal issue.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City sends the matter back to state court. Drugmakers had it moved to federal court in June.

Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017. It is seeking unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

Opioid manufacturers had argued the state was asking them to make different safety and efficacy disclosures to the public than required by federal law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but they deny wrongdoing.

An attorney for the companies did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ruling came just minutes after Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton joined Hunter and Michael Burrage, a private attorney representing the tribes and the state, in announcing that the tribes are joining the state in suing the opioid manufacturers in state courts for unspecified damages.

Hunter did not immediately return a phone call for comment, but Burrage said during the news conference that the effort to return to lawsuit to state court was to keep it from potentially being folded into more than 800 similar lawsuit pending in Ohio.

“We would rather for Oklahomans to decide these cases, the state’s case, these tribe’s cases, rather than some judge in ... Ohio,” Burrage said.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Ponca Tribe.

Court records show the Muscogee and Ponca lawsuits have been moved to the federal case in Ohio while the Cherokee lawsuit was moved to federal court in eastern Oklahoma.

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