New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces a new lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging insurance fraud.
New York has filed an insurance fraud claim against Johnson & Johnson seeking damages of $2 billion for the company’s alleged role in the opioid epidemic and its impact on the state. “A division of J&J poured millions of dollars into marketing opioids and downplaying the risks,” according to the lawsuit, which also claims J&J “continued to promote the drugs even after government officials warned that opioids were much more dangerous than other pharmaceutical products.”
In 2019, an Oklahoma judge ordered J&J to pay $500 million after the court decided the manufacturer played a significant role in fueling the crisis. In court proceedings, Oklahoma mental health commissioner Terri White, previously stated J&J’s insistence that it had zero responsibility for the state’s opioid crisis “offends my decency,” adding, “I feel like you all have repeatedly, through this trial, tried to downplay your role in all of the other products that were opioid products for which you provided the ingredients. And I absolutely think that cannot go unnoticed. That is part of the story but make no mistake I do believe Johnson & Johnson and Janssen oversupplied their own products as well. It’s absolutely about Janssen’s drugs and the drugs that Janssen provided the ingredients to make – and if I haven’t made that clear, please let me be very clear about that.”
J&J said its painkillers, Duragesic and Nucynta, represent “a very small portion” of all opioids prescribed in Oklahoma, and its attorneys argued Oklahoma is “responsible for its own drug review board and prescription monitoring program neglecting to divert opioid use.” The company also insisted the sentiments regarding aggressive opioid marketing tactics were unfounded. J&J’s attorney John Sparks responded, “Facts matter, and as we have said from the beginning and look forward to showing again in our case, the company’s marketing was squarely within the regulations, and it did everything a responsible manufacturer and seller of opioid pain medications should do.”
Instead of focusing its filing on the sale of particular addictive drugs, like the two Oklahoma chose to develop its case around, the latest lawsuit is being brought by New York’s Department of Financial Services and alleges J&J committed insurance fraud by pushing for physicians and patients to use the opioids.
“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 Governor Andrew Cuomo said when the fraud lawsuit was publicly announced. “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 authorities contend that those prescriptions and the resulting costs associated with patients getting addicted to opioids is indicative of fraud. J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has proposed paying $4 billion to settle opioid claims by U.S. states, cities and counties.
In a statement, J&J denied the claims made in the fraud lawsuit and called its marketing and promotion of opioids “appropriate and responsible.” It added, “Janssen provided these medicines for doctors treating patients suffering from pain and worked with regulators to provide appropriate information about their risks and benefits.”
The case is expected to go to trial in mid-January 2021.