Johnson & Johnson charged in lawsuit by New York for alleged role in opioid crisis

New York accuse the company of looking the other way when faced with 'blatant signs of over-prescription'

New York State has filed civil charges against Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiaries on insurance fraud for minimizing the risks of opioid treatment and targeting the most vulnerable population.

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The charges come as the fourth manufacturing company that the Department of Financial Services has pressed in its ongoing opioid probe, following charges against Teva Pharmaceutical, Allergan and Mallinckrodt.

“Misrepresentation of opioids to consumers for profit is inexcusable, and we will use every tool necessary to help ensure those responsible are held fully accountable,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The DFS alleges that Johnson & Johnson has played a role in “actively creating a dangerous market for opioids for chronic pain treatment” led by a branded marketing campaign that characterized opioid addiction as a myth and promoted the idea of ‘pseudoaddiction.’

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According to the statement of charges, J&J paid doctors, advocacy groups and professional associations significant sums of money to promote the use of opioids in areas that were not medically responsible. The claims accuse the company of looking the other way when faced with “blatant signs of over-prescription, abuse and illegal diversion.”

New York arrainged two of the opioid products that J&J manufacturers in the state, including Schedule II drugs Duragesic and Nucynta. Duragesic, a patch containing a high content of fentanyl, is labelled as the most addictive and has the highest potential for abuse and associated risk of fatal overdose. The charges assert that despite the risks on the Duragesic’s label, Janssen nonetheless downplayed the addictive properties and abused data to draw up low abuse potential and enhanced quality of life  in its marketing efforts.

With Nucynta, a tablet medication containing opioids and another drug, Janssen also allegedly put forward misleading practices of understanding.

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According to a press release from the DFS, J&J also controlled a large portion of the raw opioid supply chain through its patented “Norman Poppy,” which made up 80% of the global supply for oxycodone raw materials at one point.

“Our actions in the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid pain medications were appropriate and responsible,” a spokesperson from Johnson & Johnson told FOX Business in a statement. “Janssen provided these medicines for doctors treating patients suffering from pain and worked with regulators to provide appropriate information about their risks and benefits – everything you’d expect a responsible company to do.”

J&J previously disclosed subpoenas issued by the DFS in September 2019 as part of an industry-wide inquiry into the effect of opioid prescriptions on New York health insurance premiums.

The New Jersey-based company has offered $4 billion to settle opioid claims throughout the United States.

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