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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma loses its bid to delay the opioid epidemic trial

(Reuters) – OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and two other pharmaceutical companies filed a delay on Friday delaying a May-planned milestone attempt in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit by Oklahoma's Attorney General

FILE PHOTO : Bottles of Prescription OxyContin Pills, manufactured by Purdue Pharma LP, sit on a counter at a local drugstore in Provo, Utah, USA, April 25, 2017. REUTERS / George Frey / File Photo

Cleveland County The district judge's ruling Thad Balkman was a gain to the state even as one of the state's lawyers said Purdue would have threatened to file for bankruptcy rather than the first lawsuit resulting from some 2,000 court cases in the country.

"This case must be brought to justice because people die every day," said Reggie Whitten, prosecutor, during a hearing in Norman, Oklahoma.

Reuters relied on persons familiar with the matter and reported Monday that Purdue of Stamford, Connecticut, owned by members of the affluent Sackler family, was reviewing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. This would enable him to tackle possible legal obligations and at the same time stop the cases.

Eric Pinker, Purdue's lawyer, did not mention any possible bankruptcy while arguing that the action brought on May 28 by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter against Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd should be delayed ,

He said it was necessary to postpone the trial to September 16 because the state had submitted belatedly 1.6 million pages of records of Purdue's defense. "This case is not in an attitude where it can go to court fairly and completely in May of this year," said Pinker.

But the judge said the drug makers did not realize that the state's actions had made them biased.

Purdue said in a statement that it denies "categorically" that the verdict will influence the petition for bankruptcy. Purdue said it had "tested all options" but had not made any decisions.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, have been associated with 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The epidemic has led to complaints by state and local governments that have accused Purdue and other drug companies of contributing to the crisis through fraudulent marketing, downplaying the risks of addiction to dopants.

Companies deny misconduct, find that their drugs bear warning labels and point out other factors behind the epidemic.

More than 1,600 lawsuits were filed before a federal judge in Ohio seeking a settlement in October before the trial. Other cases, including those of Oklahoma, are pending before state courts.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editors: Grant McCool and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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