By Randy Ellis
NORMAN — Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers used a "web" of front groups and paid physicians to push for more liberal prescribing of opioids, an expert witness on the nation's opioid epidemic testified Wednesday.
Helping orchestrate the campaign was a group called the Pain Care Forum, said New York City psychiatrist Andrew Kolodny.
Kolodny referred to the group as the "opioid mafia" and described it as a collaboration of officials from Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma LP and other opioid manufacturers and advocacy groups.
Drug manufacturers and front groups that were part of that group continued their marketing push even after opioid deaths had skyrocketed and it had become obvious that the overprescription of opioids was causing a public health crisis, he testified.
"They were going to do everything they could to block cautious opioid prescribing," Kolodny said.
Kolodny spent all afternoon on the witness stand Wednesday during Day 12 of what is expected to be a two-month Cleveland County District Court trial in a case where Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries have been accused of creating a multibillion dollar public nuisance.
The companies are accused of helping cause an opioid epidemic that led to thousands of Oklahoma opioid deaths and addictions through false or misleading marketing efforts that understated the risks of addiction and overdose death associated with opioids, while overstating their benefits.
Kolodny testified that two advocacy groups, the American Pain Society and American Academy of Pain Management, touched off the nation's opioid crisis in 1996 when they published a paper that promoted the idea that "pain is often managed inadequately despite the ready availability of safe and effective treatments.
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