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Johnson & Johnson sued by Washington State for role in the opioid crisis

Published on 03/01/20 at 09:32am

The state of Washington sued pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson for deceptive marketing that said their opioids were effective for treating pain and being unlikely to be addictive.

Washington Attorney-General Bob Ferguson said that the human toll of the crisis has been “staggering.” He stated that the prescriptions and sales of opioids in Washington increased more than 500 per cent between 1997 and 2011, and that in 2011 more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed.

The lawsuit says that Johnson & Johnson recklessly expanded the production of opioids to the point where there was more than a two-week supply of daily doses for every person in the state. It seeks civil penalties and damages, and says the company violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act, was negligent and a public nuisance. It also asks them to forfeit the profits it made from its behaviour.

Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc, responded to the lawsuit and said: “Janssen provided our prescription pain medicines for doctors treating patients suffering from severe pain and worked with regulators to ensure safe use – everything you’d expect a responsible company to do.”

Washington State’s suit follows similar legal action in Oklahoma, where a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million to address the opioid crisis. The judge in that case, like in Washington State, said the company had fuelled the crisis with its aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that minimised the risk of addiction.

Conor Kavanagh

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