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Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects request to delay opioid trial

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request by drugmakers to postpone the start of what is expected to be the first state trial in lawsuits accusing the companies of fueling an opioid epidemic.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued 13 opioid manufacturers in 2017, alleging they fraudulently engaged in marketing campaigns that led to thousands of overdose addictions and deaths. The drugmakers argued last week that they needed more time to analyze more than a million documents of evidence they received from the attorney general last month. They requested a 100-day postponement of the trial scheduled to start May 28 in Cleveland County. A judge there had already denied the request.

Hunter said Monday that the Supreme Court's ruling keeps the lawsuit on track for trial. "Every day that goes by, we lose more of our loved ones to overdoses or down the tragic road of addiction," the attorney general said in a statement. "We appreciate the quick action taken by the court and for not rewarding the defendants with more time for a problem of their own making."

Sandy Coats, an attorney for one of the drugmakers, Purdue Pharma Inc., did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Several states have filed similar lawsuits, but Oklahoma's is expected to be the first to go to trial.

Among other things, Oklahoma's lawsuit seeks an injunction against the manufacturers' marketing practices and monetary damages that Hunter said he hopes will be dedicated to the rehabilitation of opioid-addicted Oklahomans.

State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahoma residents have died from opioid-related deaths than in vehicle crashes in the state. The lawsuit states that Oklahoma is one of the leading states in prescription painkiller sales per capita, with 128 painkiller prescriptions dispensed per 100 people in 2012.

Purdue Pharma has said it made billions of dollars selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin but that it is considering bankruptcy among its legal options, potentially upending hundreds of lawsuits including Oklahoma's.

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