AG Beshear files suit against pharmaceutical company over deceptive marketing scheme

04/18/2018 03:57 PM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday his fifth law suit against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, which, in his opinion, is accountable for contributing to an illicit drug market that has fueled Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit filed today in McCracken Circuit Court, alleges that Johnson and Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Ortho-McNeil subsidiaries, allegedly told doctors and patients that their opioid medications were safer than other alternatives, and misrepresented that opioids were “rarely addictive” when used for chronic pain.

“These companies created a campaign of misinformation designed to mislead patients and doctors about both the severity and the frequency of the risk of addiction of the strong opioids,” Beshear said.

While Janssen was allegedly mischaracterizing the risk of opioid abuse and addiction, the states opioid epidemic rose significantly.

“While they falsely promoted their products, opioid prescriptions in Kentucky skyrocketed,” Beshear said. “From 2006 to 2015, Kentucky had more opoid prescriptions than it has people.”

Beshear acknowledged that there were specific reasons why he chose to file the suit in McCracken Circuit Court.

“When filing suit against an out-of-state corporation there have to be a certain number of contacts with a community, and there are those contacts here with Johnson and Johnson and Janssen in McCracken County,” Beshear said. “McCracken County has some of the highest prescriptions per person in Western Kentucky.

Beshear defines what a “victory” would mean to him in the suit.

“What I will consider a victory is a substantial recovery that moves Kentucky forward,” Beshear said. “While we can’t bring the people that we’ve lost, we can save the next group, the next generation that’s either suffering from addiction, or to prevent them from becoming addicted in the first place. We can stop this pill pipeline.”

In November 2017, Beshear first filed suit against manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals regarding its drug Opana ER, alleging that Endo violated state law and directly contributed to opioid related deaths and overdoses in Kentucky.

IN 2018, Beshear has also sued three national opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky.

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