April 19 (Reuters) - Four drugmakers are set to face trial
on Monday in a lawsuit by several large counties in California
that are seeking more than $50 billion over claims the companies
helped fuel an opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing
The case against Johnson & Johnson, Teva
Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC
and AbbVie's Allergan unit is one of the
thousands of lawsuits by states and local governments seeking to
hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the drug crisis.
Opioids have resulted in the overdose deaths of nearly
500,000 people from 1999 to 2019 in the United States, according
to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The populous Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange counties
and the city of Oakland accuse the companies of deceptively
marketing painkillers in ways that downplayed their addictive
risks. The drugmakers argue they acted appropriately and that
they did not cause the epidemic.
If Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson finds the
companies liable following a non-jury trial, the counties say
the companies should have to pay $50 billion to cover the costs
of abating the public nuisance they created plus penalties.
More than 3,400 similar lawsuits are pending nationally over
the opioid epidemic. The only other case to go to trial in the
opioid litigation resulted in the state of Oklahoma in 2019
winning a $465 million judgment against J&J, which is appealing.
Other cases are slated to go to trial in the coming months,
creating new pressure for the companies to reach
The nation's three largest drug distributors - McKesson Corp
, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc
- and J&J have proposed paying a combined $26 billion to
resolve the cases against them. The proposed deal has not been
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Daniel Wallis)