State resolves deceptive marketing case with drug maker Johnson & Johnson.
Just about a week before Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s opioid lawsuit was set to go to trial in New Hampshire, the company agreed to settle the case for $40.5 million, effectively resolving claims of its role in participating in the statewide opioid epidemic. The terms of the deal were announced by Attorney General (AG) John Formella earlier this month.
As part of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary will end a lawsuit filed in 2018 by former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald who alleged the company aggressively marketed opioids to prescribers and patients in the state and misrepresented the manufacturer’s drugs as being safer than other alternative while “promoting the false concept of pseudo addiction.” This term incorrectly indicates that opioids and other drugs are rarely addictive when used to treat chronic pain. A second claim made against J&J by the state was that it targeted vulnerable populations like the elderly despite the fact that opioid use among the elderly carries a higher risk of overdose, injury, and death than in younger populations.
“New Hampshire has been devastated by the opioid crisis, and we continue to deal with the impact of that crisis today,” said Formella in response to the case’s resolution. “Today’s settlement continues our efforts to hold opioid companies accountable for their role in creating this epidemic, and this settlement represents another successful push to get more resources for New Hampshire to align with the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on our state.”
According to Formella, the settlement also confirms the state’s decision not to join a previous national settlement with J&J because the national settlement was less favorable for the state.
Governor Chris Sununu has also shared his thoughts, saying, “This resolution provides a positive step forward in ensuring these devastating business practices are not repeated.”
J&J is set to pay more than $39 million (and approximately $900,000 in attorneys’ fees) to counties, cities and towns across the state that filed lawsuits against before September 1, 2019. New Hampshire plans to apply $31.5 million to cover legal fees and the rest of the money will be used for its opioid abatement program. Johnson & Johnson will not be allowed to sell or promote opioids in the state.
Opioid abuse has been the subject of several complaints filed by the state in recent years. New Hampshire was one of 34 states to reach a $450 million settlement with Endo Pharmaceuticals regarding its alleged role in deceptively marketing addictive drugs. New Hampshire has also filed complaints against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt, as well as national drug distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen. Additionally, in July, the attorney general’s office filed a complaint against CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid over their distribution and dispensing practices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that more than 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses over the past two decades, including 75,673 in the year that ended in April 2021.