New York Sues Johnson & Johnson Over Opioid Marketing
The pharmaceutical giant has been charged with insurance fraud for its alleged role in the US opioid epidemic.
New York state filed civil charges against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) on Thursday, accusing the company of insurance fraud for playing down the risks of opioid painkillers and addiction in its marketing, including to doctors and elderly patients.
J&J and its affiliate, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, were accused of deliberately targeting elderly patients for opioid treatment in a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign in spite of the risks of harmful side effects including neuropsychiatric symptoms, falls and fractures.
J&J was also accused of dismissing opioid addiction as a myth by employing “seemingly independent” advocacy groups and “key opinion leaders” in its marketing.
“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,” Governor 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.”
In a statement, J&J said that its marketing of opioids had been “appropriate and responsible”. “Janssen provided these medicines for doctors treating patients suffering from pain and worked with regulators to provide appropriate information about their risks and benefits,” a spokesperson said.
J&J is the fourth pharmaceuticals manufacturer to be charged by New York’s Department of Financial Services in its probe into the opioid industry. The department has also filed suit against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International Plc, Mallinckrodt Plc and Allergan Plc.
Opioid addiction has become a national crisis in the US. In its statement of charges, the Department of Financial Services said that private insurance claims related to opioid dependence diagnoses increased by over 3,000% nationally and by almost 500% in the state of New York between 2007 and 2014. Data from 2018 suggested that an average of 128 people died of an opioid overdose each day in the US.
A hearing on the J&J case will be held on 25 January 2021.