Oklahoma Opioid Case May Hold Clues For Indiana's Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma

Aug 27, 2019

Attorney General Curtis Hill holds the 92 page complaint against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma during a November 2018 press conference. The recent decision in Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson alleged similar complaints.
Credit Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The first test case to hold a drug-maker responsible for the opioid epidemic was decided in Oklahoma Monday.  A judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $500 million to the state

Indiana is one of 48 states taking legal action against drug manufacturers and Hoosier legal experts watched the Oklahoma case closely. 

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Jody Madeira says one takeaway was the successful use of what’s called public nuisance doctrine. 

"Nuisance theory is used to say that something is enough of a public health danger. Where in some way a company or a set of companies is responsible for creating a massive public health safety issue," says Madeira. 

Indiana is not suing Johnson & Johnson, but it is suing Purdue Pharma. Madeira says there are still lessons to be learned. 

READ MORE: Indiana Files Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma

"The pharmaceutical companies did relatively similar things," says Madeira. 

The companies allegedly trained sales representatives to sell more opioids and deny addictive properties. The companies also funded studies to show the benefits of opioids.   

Indiana will join other states in federal court in Ohio this fall in the case against Purdue Pharma. 

Between 2006 and 2012, more than 2 billion prescription pain pills were supplied to Indiana. 

Contact Jill at jsheridan@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @JillASheridan.

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