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California gives the First Win in the US Opioid Case

A California judge has ruled against five large counties that accused four drug makers of contributing to the US Opioid epidemic, claiming that they failed to prove their $50 billion cases during a trial. Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC, and AbbVie Inc’s Allergan business were found not liable in a tentative ruling handed by Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson on Monday.

The first trial victory for any pharmaceutical corporation in the more than 3,300 lawsuits filed by states and local governments over a drug abuse crisis that the US government claims have resulted in almost 500,000 Opioid overdose fatalities over the last two decades. The decision came as J&J and the three major US drug distributors – McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, and AmerisourceBergen – worked to finalize a potential settlement worth up to $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits against them.

In August, a bankruptcy judge approved a deal between OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its wealthy Sackler family owners over claims worth more than $10 billion. The counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Orange and the city of Oakland argued that the drugmakers’ marketing minimised Opioid‘ addictive risks and promoted them for broader applications than intended during a months-long non-jury trial.

They said that the promotion resulted in a flow of painkillers into their towns, as well as an increase in overdose deaths. They claimed the firms should pay more than $50 billion in fines and penalties to compensate for the costs of removing the public nuisance they caused. Wilson, however, stated that even if the drugmakers’ marketing contained any misleading statements, the counties provided no evidence that their promotional activities resulted in the writing of medically improper prescriptions.

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