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Jury to hear final arguments in N.Y. opioid case against drugmakers

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By Brendan Pierson

Dec 8 (Reuters) - Jurors in a New York state court are expected to hear closing arguments Wednesday over whether drugmakers AbbVie Inc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd fueled an opioid epidemic in the state, concluding a trial that has lasted more than five months.

New York's Attorney General and Nassau and Suffolk Counties are seeking to hold the two companies responsible for the cost of dealing with opioid addiction. The companies have said they complied with federal regulations and that changing standards of care were behind surging opioid prescriptions.

The case is one of more than 3,300 filed by state, local and tribal governments across the country accusing drugmakers of minimizing opioid drugs' addictiveness and distributors and pharmacies of ignoring red flags that they were being diverted into illegal channels.

On Tuesday, jurors saw the last evidence in the case, including two parody videos made in 2006 for a sales meeting at Cephalon Inc, later bought by Teva.

One video showed the character Dr. Evil from the film "Austin Powers" as a Cephalon employee complaining about child-resistant packaging on the company's opioid drug Fentora. The other spoofed a courtroom scene in "A Few Good Men" and featured a Cephalon employee telling a lawyer that he "can't handle the truth" about how sales representatives meet quotas.

More than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses during the 12-month period ending April 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-drug-overdose-deaths-top-100000-annually-cdc-2021-11-17 in November, a record driven largely by opioids.

The three largest U.S. drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson in July agreed https://www.reuters.com/world/us/drug-companies-say-enough-us-states-join-26-bln-opioid-settlement-proceed-2021-09-04 to pay up to $26 billion to resolve the lawsuits against them.

A bankruptcy judge in September approved a settlement by OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP, including about $4.5 billion from its wealthy Sackler family owners. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Aurora Ellis)

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