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Teva Pharmaceuticals Found Liable in Landmark Opioid Trial

In the first, a 2019 bench trial brought by Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson, a judge found in favor of the state. In the second, brought by two Ohio counties against national retail pharmacy chains, a federal jury found three companies liable.

But the litigation has had inconsistent outcomes, even for the same defendants. Elizabeth Burch, a University of Georgia law professor, called Thursday’s verdict “a pretty significant win,” especially in light of some recent setbacks for plaintiffs.

Last month, Oklahoma’s top court threw out a ruling that required Johnson & Johnson to pay the state for its role in the opioid epidemic. And in California, a state judge rejected the argument that opioid manufacturers, including Teva, contributed substantially to the opioid crisis in several counties.

The pharmacy chains in the Ohio case have already begun their appeals. And Teva, noting that the California judge ruled in its favor, has also said that it would appeal the ruling in New York.

A spokeswoman for the company said that the plaintiffs had “presented no evidence of medically unnecessary prescriptions, suspicious or diverted orders, no evidence of oversupply by the defendants — or any indication of what volumes were appropriate — and no causal relationship between Teva’s conduct including its marketing and any harm to the public in the state.”

Teva also announced that it would continue to seek a mistrial, in part because it said that plaintiffs’ lawyers had mischaracterized internal company videos as training instruction.

In the videos, sales executives parodied movie villains. In one, an executive, in the voice of the “Austin Powers” villain Dr. Evil, discusses pressing doctors to prescribe the company’s drugs over a competitor’s product. In a takeoff of “A Few Good Men,” a sales vice president said that representatives had quotas: “You can’t handle the truth,” he says. “Quotas have to be exceeded.”

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