Judge won't approve Teva opioid settlement until state provides more info

Judge Thad Balkman speaks Monday during discussions of the settlement between the state of Oklahoma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. during Oklahoma's trial against drugmakers blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis. (AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki, Pool)

NORMAN — A Cleveland County judge Monday said he won’t approve Oklahoma's proposed settlement agreement with an Israel-based pharmaceutical company until the state provides more information.

Thad Balkman, a Cleveland County district judge, said he wants the Attorney General’s Office to clarify how the distribution of the proposed $85 million settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals conforms with state law. He also stressed he wants that information to be filed publicly.

“A lot of people are interested in knowing what happens,” Balkman said during court proceedings Monday.

Meanwhile, the state’s ongoing lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson entered its third week in Balkman’s court as Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter attempts to prove the company and its subsidiaries helped create a public nuisance by using false or misleading opioid painkiller advertising.

Among the witnesses to take the stand Monday was Renzi Stone, University of Oklahoma regent and marketing and communication company business owner. He testified at length about efforts to market opioids by pharmaceutical companies.

Hunter, who has accused the drug company and its subsidiaries of contributing to overdoses, addictions and deaths, is seeking billions to abate the state’s opioid epidemic.

Johnson and Johnson has denied wrongdoing.

Hunter told Balkman on Monday that it’s going to be critical to work with the Legislature and the governor during the process. He said they’ll need legislation in order for the state’s abatement process to be implemented properly.

The state’s March $270 million settlement with the maker of OxyContin — Purdue Pharma — was criticized by the Legislature earlier this year, as legislators complained that under Oklahoma law, the funds should have gone into state coffers so lawmakers could have determined how they were spent.

That settlement, though, requires $200 million be spent to create National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. Local governments share $12.5 million while the rest went to pay legal fees.

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