Johnson & Johnson at center of first opioid crisis trial

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10:27 a.m. ET, May 28, 2019

Oklahoma's attorney general is taking on big pharma in major opioids trial that just started

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter just kicked off a historic trial that is the first major test in the nation of whether a state can make a pharmaceutical company pay for the opioid epidemic.

What the state says: "We're very confident in what we believe will be a successful trial," Hunter told the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center earlier this month. "Sometimes businesses do bad things -- and this is one of those instances."

Hunter and his team have focused their efforts on Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company acted as a drug "kingpin," created a public nuisance and cost the state billions of dollars, destroying thousands of lives in the process.

What the company says: Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary company, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, have vehemently denied the allegations and said the public nuisance charge is being misused.

"Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible. The FDA-approved labels for these prescription pain medications provide clear information about their risks and benefits. The allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated."

Why it's important: The Oklahoma trial is the first major trial of nearly 2,000 cases around the country in which states, cities and hard-hit local municipalities are seeking to hold opioid makers accountable for the epidemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead and strapped resources in every state.

How to watch it: The case will be heard by state judge Thad Balkman, who is allowing cameras to televise the trial live. You can watch it live in the video player above.