Defense team for Johnson & Johnson presents first witness in Oklahoma opioid trial

NORMAN, Okla. -- The defense team for Johnson & Johnson has presented its first witness in the trial against the nation's largest drugmaker.

Dr. Bruce Moskovitz retired from Janssen Pharmaceutica, whose parent company is Johnson & Johnson, in 2011. Moskovitz served as a therapeutic area head and led a team that provided medical input, additional clinical trials for drugs, and research including many of Johnson & Johnson's opioids.

The company is being sued by the state of Oklahoma. They're accused of causing the "largest man-made public health crisis" through deceptive marketing and downplaying the addiction risks of opioids.

"If you don't adequately treat acute pain, it has been reviewed in the literature - discussed in the literature - that sometimes, that can progress to chronic pain," Dr. Moskovitz testified.

Moskovitz spent all of Thursday on the stand being questioned by defense attorney Larry Ottaway. He said it could years for new drugs to make it on the market. The process takes a lot of money and people, he said.

Part of Moskovitz's testimony was devoted to the company's promotional review process, which would review any materials that were under consideration to be shared with a healthcare provider. At Janssen, the former company said the committee included their medical affairs and legal teams.

All of them acted under the guidance of the FDA, he said. According to Moskovitz, approval from the FDA meant the "benefits outweigh the risks."

On the stand Thursday, attorneys pointed to a 'Duragesic' label from 2005 to illustrate the point that risks are clearly labeled. The fentanyl patch is used for the management of persistent, moderate to severe chronic pain in opioid-tolerant patients when a continuous, around-the-clock opioid analgesic is needed for an extended period of time.

"You could not give this to an individual who is, what we call, opioid naive…has never received an opioid or has not received an opioid in an extended period of time," Moskovitz said.

The company has also continued to hammer the point that Schedule II drugs- which cover some of their products- require a prescription, which does not come from them.

"How you would get these drugs would be the most restrictive," Moskovitz said. "These are drugs that cannot be called into the pharmacy, you cannot write for renewals."

John Sparks, Oklahoma counsel for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, sent KFOR the following statement regarding today's testimony:

"In the first few hours of testimony, Janssen is already setting the record straight, correcting the misstatements and distortions presented by the State. Facts matter, and the facts presented today show that Janssen did everything a responsible manufacturer and seller of opioid pain medications should do, providing clear information on the benefits and risks of its products."

The defense is expected to continue their questioning Friday.