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Kentucky sues Johnson & Johnson over opioid marketing

Kentucky sues Johnson & Johnson over opioid marketing
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The state of Kentucky is suing Johnson & Johnson and two of its subsidiaries over what the state's attorney general alleges was a deceptive marketing campaign that caused widespread addiction to opioid-based prescription painkillers.

In the lawsuit, Kentucky's Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) argued that Johnson & Johnson, as well as Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, sought to deceive doctors and patients to increase prescriptions of opioid-based medications, including Duragesic, Nucynta and Nucynta ER.

"To make that happen, Janssen and other opioid makers had to turn the standard of care on its head – persuading doctors that drugs they had been unwilling to prescribe because of their risk of addiction were more effective and safe enough to use widely and long-term for relatively minor pain conditions," the lawsuit, filed in McCracken County Circuit Court, reads. "Patients were exposed to the same reassuring messages."

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The lawsuit seeks repayment for Kentucky's "Medicaid, workers’ compensation, and other spending on opioids, disgorgement of Janssen’s unjust profits, civil penalties for its egregious violations of law, compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and abatement of the public nuisance Janssen has helped create."

Kentucky is not the first state to bring a lawsuit against Janssen for allegedly deceiving doctors and patients about the risk of opioid-based painkillers.

Officials in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota have also sued the company.

The opioid epidemic has hit Kentucky particularly hard. As of 2016, the state had an opioid prescribing rate of about 97 prescriptions per 100 individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beshear's lawsuit also alleges that 1,404 people in Kentucky died from drug overdoses in 2016.