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Judge To Weigh $17 Bln Opioid Case Against Johnson & Johnson

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Lawyers for the state of Oklahoma urged a judge on Monday to hold Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) responsible for the country's opioid epidemic.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, in his closing arguments of the eight-week trial in Cleveland County, called the pharmaceutical company the "Kingpin" behind the opioid epidemic in the state. He said J&J created and fed a need for opioids by manufacturing a mutant poppy and then oversupplying the drugs that created crisis.

"We are in a state of crisis," Hunter said during closing arguments. The attorney general said Johnson & Johnson "blamed everyone, everyone except themselves for causing this crisis."

This case is one of about 2,000 actions by state and local governments accusing drug manufacturers of contributing to the opioid epidemic. Opioids were linked to a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state of Oklahoma is seeking $17 billion from J&J to implement a plan developed by state mental health and addiction specialists to abate the opioid crisis. The plan costs would range between $12.6 billion for 20 years or $17.5 billion over 30 years.

"The only question is whether the Oklahoma taxpayer or the kingpin of it all should be required to pay its cost," Hunter said.

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