(Reuters) – A California judge on Thursday said several major counties accusing four drug companies of running an opioid epidemic had presented a "lack of evidence" during a multi-billion dollar lawsuit to find companies marketing painkillers caused health crisis.
Judge Peter Wilson sharply questioned the county's attorney in closing arguments as to what evidence would support finding Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Endo International PLC and the AbbVie Inc. Allergan unit responsible for the epidemic.
Fidelma Fitzpatrick, an attorney for the populous Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange counties and the city of Oakland, argued that drug addicts' marketing downplayed the addictive risks of opioids and promoted them for wider uses than intended.
That advertising led to billions of painkillers flooding their communities over 20 years and an ongoing increase in opioid overdose deaths, Fitzpatrick said in his concluding argument. [1
But Wilson, the Orange County Superior Court judge who led the trial outside the jury, said the plaintiffs lacked evidence that the marketing prompted doctors to prescribe inappropriate, rather than appropriate, prescriptions.
Wilson said decision-makers seemed to be aware that an increase in prescriptions for opioids approved by the US Food and Drug Administration could result in "regrettable" abuse but still accepted it as a trade-off to ensure pain was treated.
"It's a lack of evidence from a single doctor, a single patient, a single person who says & # 39; I changed my methods to … & # 39; or & # 39; I did something different. because … & # 39; & # 39 ;, he said. "That's the conclusion I'm asked to draw." with an abstract problem and work backwards to determine if there is a practical public nuisance. "
The case is one of 3,300 plus lawsuits by largely state and local governments seeking to hold drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies responsible for an epidemic that US government data shows led to nearly 500,000 opioid deaths from overdose from 1999 to 2019.  The closing argument came after Johnson & Johnson and the three largest distributors – McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmersourceBergen Corp. – agreed in July to pay up to $ 26 billion to settle cases against them.  County of California, however, is not part of the proposed settlement with Johnson & Johnson and has gone ahead with its case.
to reduce the general inconveniences they created, plus penalties.