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Judge denies drug makers’ request to toss Missouri lawsuit


A St. Louis judge rejected a request for painkiller makers to throw out a lawsuit over their role in addiction issues across the state.

Judge Michael Stelzer denied the summary judgement request from four drug makers to throw out the lawsuit based on federal preemption. Stelzer said in a Wednesday ruling that the companies provided little evidence to support a claim that federal regulation of their products preempted Missouri consumer law.

Then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley sued drug makers Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions and Purdue Pharmaceuticals in 2017. The lawsuit claims the companies deceived doctors and patients of the addictive nature of their painkillers through marketing campaigns. The suit, now carried on by AG Eric Schmitt, said the campaigns violated Missouri's Merchandising and Practices Act.

Three of the companies - Janssen, Endo and Johnson & Johnson - claimed that the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the labels on their products preempted Missouri's consumer protection law. The labels, they argued, came with FDA warnings of the potential for addiction to the painkillers.

Stelzer said the companies' motion "includes virtually no mention of their marketing and promotion of the subject pharmaceuticals." The Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which gives the FDA power to regulate prescription drugs, does not expressly preempt state law on the issue of their labels, Stelzer said.

Marianna Deal, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said it was pleased with the decision.

"For too long, the manufacturers of opioids have been preying on the citizens of Missouri, resulting in addiction, ruined lives, broken families and, tragically, the loss of life," Deal said. "We will continue to pursue justice for Missourians."

Attorneys for the drug manufacturers did not return requests seeking comment on Thursday.

A trial is scheduled in the case for Jan. 3 in St. Louis.

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.


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