The State of New Jersey is suing a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for its role in fueling the opioid crisis that has claimed more than 2,600 lives in 2018.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the five-count lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., which claims that the company led a multi-year scheme to deceive doctors and patients about two of its opioid products.
This is the first time New Jersey has brought legal action against a company based int the state.
Grewal says Janssen Pharmaceuticals minimized the risks of opioid addictions in its marketing messages. He also says the company targeted older people and patients with minimal knowledge of opioids.
“It is especially troubling that so much of the alleged misconduct took place right here in our own backyard,” said Grewal at the news conference announcing the lawsuit. “New Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry is the envy of the world, with a long history of developing vital, lifesaving drugs. But we cannot turn a blind eye when a New Jersey company like Janssen violates our laws and threatens the lives of our residents.”
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, joins a string of government bodies that have brought allegations against opioid manufacturers and distributors. More than 40 state attorney generals have joined New York in a multi-year investigation of manufacturers and distributors of opioids.
In addition to the lives lost, the opioid crisis has placed a significant financial burden on states, which often have to pay for hospital bills, emergency responses and drug courts. In New Jersey, the state pays for opioids through public employee health plans, the lawsuit states. New Jersey spent about $178 million between 2010 and 2017 for opioid prescriptions through employee health plans.
New Jersey’s opioid overdose death rate has been rising, with nearly 2,700 deaths confirmed in just the first 10 months of the year. In 2017, preliminary data shows that there were 2,750 overdose-related deaths in the state.