Johnson & Johnson has faced years of litigation over its opioid marketing practices, culminating with a $4 billion settlement offer last year. But after a separate probe in New York, officials there charged the company with violating insurance laws.
As part of an industrywide investigation that started in September 2019, New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) charged J&J with violations of two insurance laws relating to “fraudulent insurance acts” and “intentional misrepresentation of a material fact.” The charges follow cases DFS filed against Teva, Allergan, Endo and Mallinckrodt.
DFS alleges J&J targeted the elderly for opioid treatment and minimized the risks of the powerful painkillers in that patient group.
The state also claims J&J used marketing and opinion leaders to characterize opioid addiction as a myth. Instead, they promoted the "false concept" of "pseudoaddiction," arguing that patients who showed signs of addiction actually needed "even more opioid medication," DFS says.
A J&J spokesman said the company's "actions in the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid pain medications were appropriate and responsible."
"Janssen provided these medicines for doctors treating patients suffering from pain and worked with regulators to provide appropriate information about their risks and benefits—everything you’d expect a responsible company to do," he added.
The state set a hearing on the charges for January 2021.
New York's charges follow years of litigation for J&J and other opioid makers, resulting last year in a multibillion-dollar settlement offer. Under the proposal, J&J offered to pay $4 billion to resolve charges from states, counties and cities, but the deal has not yet been finalized.
Before the settlement offer, a court in Oklahoma ordered J&J to pay $572 million for overplaying opioid benefits and downplaying the risks. The court later reduced the amount to $465 million, and J&J is appealing.