The state of New Jersey has filed a five-count lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, for deceiving consumers about the dangers of two of its opioid products with high potential for abuse – Nucynta and Nucynta ER, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday.
The lawsuit is the third case brought by the AG’s office against an opioid manufacturer, and the first such case it has brought against a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey. Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Brunswick.
The 97-page complaint, the AG’s office said in a release, is based in part on internal company documents it obtained during a lengthy investigation into Janssen’s marketing practices. A redacted complaint has been filed with the court.
“Janssen helped fuel a public health crisis unlike any other our state has faced,” Grewal said in a statement. “The public has a right to know about Janssen’s efforts to mislead health care providers and patients, and we will fight any effort to keep today’s filing hidden from view. Janssen’s conduct was illegal and details about it should not be kept confidential.”
The suit charges violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, New Jersey False Claims Act and common-law prohibition against creation of a public nuisance. It seeks a judgment requiring Janssen “pay civil penalties, disgorge its ill-gotten gains and pay damages for false claims submitted to the State.”
In addition, the suit seeks an order requiring Janssen halt all unlawful practices under the Consumer Fraud Act, correct its misrepresentations and “abate the public nuisance that its deceptive marketing has been a substantial factor in creating.”
The suit also blames the marketing of Nucynta and Nucynta ER for “dramatically” increased health insurance costs absorbed by the state and, ultimately, the taxpayers through false claims for chronic opioid therapy.
In response to the suit, Janssen issued a statement saying its “actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible.”
“The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated,” the Janssen statement continued. “In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications. Opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues. We are committed to being part of the ongoing dialogue and to doing our part to find ways to address this crisis.”