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A pharmacist in Boston emptying a prescription bottle of opioid painkillers in September 2018. Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A California judge ruled late Monday against Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange counties and the city of Oakland in their lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies over the marketing of opioid pain medications.

Why it matters: It was the first case in which a judge ruled in favor of drug manufacturers in the more than 3,300 lawsuits filed by states and local governments over the opioid epidemic, according to Reuters.

Driving the news: In a tentative ruling, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson said the counties and Oakland failed to prove that the companies should be held legally liable for opioid overdose deaths that occurred in those parts of California.

  • The companies included Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo International and Allergan.
  • The local governments alleged that the companies were legal public nuisances because they downplayed the addictive risks of opioid medications, which allowed the drugs to proliferate and contribute to overdose deaths in their communities.
  • They were seeking more than $50 billion to provide opioid abatement programs.

The big picture: Wilson and the defendants did not deny the existence of an opioid epidemic in the U.S. but said, in this case, that the companies' advertisements did not create a rise in prescriptions for opioids.

  • Wilson said the companies could not be a public nuisance when the medications they were selling were authorized by several states and the federal government.

Go deeper: U.S. sees record high of 96,000 drug overdose deaths in 12 month period

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2021 - Podcasts

The new travel bans

The World Health Organization yesterday advised people 60 or older to postpone any travel because of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. The new strain was first identified in South Africa and may have originated there or Botswana, which has led to many countries — including the U.S. — banning travelers from that part of the world.

  • Plus, what Congress has to do this month.
  • And, ER doctors’ role in prescribing drugs to prevent opioid overdoses.

Guests: Axios' Bryan Walsh and Alayna Treene; Dr. Keith Kocher, emergency physician at University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:

JPMorgan: "Full global recovery" in 2022

Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase Global Research says in a forecast to clients: "2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic, and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak."

The big picture: The bullish report sees "a return of global mobility, and a release of pent-up demand from consumers (e.g. travel, services)."

Inside Trump's hunt for "disloyal" Republicans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump and his associates are systematically reshaping the Republican Party, working to install hand-picked loyalists across federal and state governments and destroy those he feels have been disloyal, sources close to the former president tell Axios.

Why it matters: If most or all of Trump’s candidates win, he will go into the 2024 election cycle with far more people willing to do his bidding who run the elections in key states.