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Opioid trial continues, medical historian testifies

CHARLESTON — A medical historian testified Wednesday during the state’s opioid trial against three large drug manufacturers, in which he described historical records that indicate the companies did little to stop the widespread use of their drugs even after it was clear an opioid epidemic was underway.

West Virginia is suing Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan Finance. The trial began Monday on the lawsuits first filed in 2019. The companies deny they deliberately played a role in the epidemic.

Medical Historian Dr. David Courtright told Mercer County Circuit Judge Derek Swope in a Charleston courtroom that news of an epidemic caused by opioids first began to surface in 2000 with regional reports from Massachusetts and Maine. By 2001, journalists across the country began reporting on the rise in opioid misuse.

An attorney representing West Virginia asked Courtright, “Based on your study of the medical records did you see any evidence that [the drug manufacturer] stopped promoting pro-opioid voices and messages after the early 2000s?”

“No,” Courtright said.

Courtwright additionally testified Teva’s decision to fund pain advocacy organizations that promoted the use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain had a definite impact on “narcotic conservatism.”

Courtright said his review of historical records showed the defendants funded academic, professional and other pro-opioid use organizations. Courtwright said that such efforts “led to more widespread opioid prescribing and more widespread exposure and ultimately more addiction in helping create the second greatest opioid medical epidemic in American history.”

One of the defense attorneys objected to the last part of the statement, and Swope sustained his objection, striking Courtright’s opinion from the record.

Under cross-examination from the attorney representing Allergan Finance, Courtright admitted he may have made a mistake during his testimony about the company’s pro-opioid actions because he didn’t know much about Allergan Finance.

“Apparently, I was confused by that,” Courtright said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said following Wednesday’s proceedings the state has made a solid case so far in how the companies fueled the opioid epidemic.

“This is going to continue to build over the next few weeks,” he said. “It’s just so important that people understand that these companies knew what they were doing. They advanced systems and a scheme, and it ultimately cost West Virginia immensely.”

TWEET @DominionPostWV