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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.

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

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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.

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.

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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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‘People’s lives will be lost’: Psychiatrist warns ‘sociopath’ Trump is ‘getting worse’ — and failing in coronavirus response

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President Donald Trump's psychological problems are getting worse and could be consequential as America faces a potential COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday interviewed Dr. Lance Dodes, a former assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"As you pointed out, Lawrence, this man is about himself. He really is not about the country, he's not about public health," Dr. Dodes said of Trump.

"Although he has already severely damaged the country by being a psychopath or sociopath -- in many ways, he's damaged democracy -- I think people's lives will be lost now," he warned. "Individual lives will be lost because of the way he's mishandling the coronavirus issue."

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2020 Election

‘Something really rotten’: Here’s the evidence of extensive voter suppression in Georgia’s notorious 2018 election

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As the 2020 presidential campaign cycle grinds on, there’s renewed concern about the 21st century’s newest form of warfare: cyber-sabotage of government systems, including elections and online disinformation intended to incite unrest. But as Suppressed: The Fight to Vote, a documentary from Brave New Films, makes clear, partisan voter suppression tactics with 20th-century roots remain and can thwart multitudes of voters from changing their state’s political leaders.

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The real story behind Trump’s new lawsuit against the New York Times

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Wednesday was an ominous day for freedom of the press in this country, and I want to tell you why.

You may have heard or seen that President Trump filed a libel suit against the New York Times. Perhaps you weren’t surprised: the president is known to frequently disparage the Times even as he reads it obsessively. Borrowing a page from what I’ve referred to before as a Mount Rushmore of totalitarians, Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, Trump loves to call the press the “enemy of the people.”

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