The New York Department of Financial Services has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson accusing the drug and medical device giant of not adequately warning of the addiction and overdose risks associated with its opioids, Law360 reports. J&J is the fourth opioid maker to be hit with a lawsuit for alleged deceptive opioid marketing in the state and for creating an opioid epidemic.
“The opioid crisis has taken too many lives and New York State will continue to take action against those who helped fuel this public health catastrophe and bring a measure of justice to families who have lost loved ones,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”
According to the Department of Financial Services, private insurance claims for opioid dependence diagnoses jumped more than 3,000% nationally and nearly 500% in New York State alone from 2007 to 2014. The department says this caused New Yorkers to overpay about $1.8 billion in commercial health insurance premiums.
In one example, the department accuses Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals of claiming that its opioid patch Duragesic had less potential for addiction despite containing high levels of the potent and highly abused opioid fentanyl.
“Janssen also cited numerous studies that claimed to find low addiction potential and high efficacy for Duragesic,” the department said. “Many of these studies, however, have been found to be so flawed that their findings are useless, and internal emails show knowledge on the part of Janssen executives that such studies were not effective measures of the drug’s safety or efficacy.”
A J&J spokesperson told Law360 that its marketing and promotion of prescription opioid pain killers were “appropriate and responsible.” A hearing on the matter is planned for Jan. 25, 2021.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Toxic Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by this crisis.