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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma loses bid to delay opioid epidemic trial

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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and two other drugmakers on Friday lost a bid to delay a landmark trial set for May in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by Oklahoma’s attorney general accusing them of helping fuel an opioid abuse and overdose epidemic in the state.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s decision was a win for the state, even as one of the lawyers for the state said Purdue had “threatened” to file for bankruptcy rather than face the first trial to result from around 2,000 lawsuits nationally.

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“This case needs to get to trial because people are dying every day,” Reggie Whitten, the lawyer for the state, said during a hearing in Norman, Oklahoma.

Reuters, citing people familiar with the matter, on Monday reported that Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, owned by members of the wealthy Sackler family, was exploring filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Doing so would allow it to address potential legal liabilities while halting the cases.

Eric Pinker, Purdue’s lawyer, made no mention of a potential bankruptcy while arguing that the May 28 trial in the lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter against it, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd should be delayed.

He said delaying the trial to Sept. 16 was necessary because the state belatedly turned over 1.6 million pages of records critical to Purdue’s defense. “This case is not at a posture where it can fairly and fully go to trial in May of this year,” Pinker said.

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But the judge said the drugmakers had not established the state’s actions had prejudiced them.

Purdue in a statement said it “categorically” denies that the ruling will affect whether it files for bankruptcy. Purdue said it was “looking at all of its options” but had made no decisions.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The epidemic has prompted lawsuits by state and local governments accusing Purdue and other drugmakers of contributing to the crisis through deceptive marketing that downplayed the risks of addictive opioids.

Weak U.S. hiring adds to global slowdown fears

The companies deny wrongdoing, noting their drugs carried warning labels and pointing to others factors behind the epidemic.

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More than 1,600 lawsuits have been consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio, who has pushed for a settlement ahead of the trial before him in October. Other cases, including Oklahoma’s, are pending in state courts.


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‘Time to go to court’: Former prosecutors explain how Democrats can still uncover whistleblower scandal

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The White House is doing whatever it takes to obstruct any investigation into a recent whistleblower complaint, but two former prosecutors have ideas for what Congress should do next.

This week it was revealed that President Donald Trump said something so concerning to a foreign leader that a senior intelligence officer filed a complaint. The officer then filed for whistleblower protections. A series of actions are outlined in the law for the next steps, but Trump and his appointed officials in the White House have worked to stymie the process the law requires.

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Hate for Trump sets new record of Americans who can’t stand a president

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A new poll shows a record number of Americans can't stand the president of the United States.

According to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal public opinion poll, an astounding 69 percent of Americans don't like Trump personally.

During the early 2000s, President George W. Bush enjoyed the benefit of Americans finding him likable and wanting to "have a beer" with the sober leader. That measure of "likability" has been a kind of inspiration for political leaders searching for voters based not on issues but on personality.

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‘Clearly impeachable and serious offense’: Ex-organized crime prosecutor says of Trump’s Ukraine scandal

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Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks recalled during an MSNBC panel discussion that she was once the prosecutor for organized crime. It was something that reminded her of this recent move by President Donald Trump and his administration.

This week, it was revealed that Trump said something to a foreign leader that was so concerning to a senior intelligence officer that a complaint was filed and the officer sought whistleblower protections. The White House is now working to obstruct any investigation about the complaint.

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