In a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, New Jersey’s Attorney General accuses the company of contributing to the opioid crisis through the marketing of its painkiller Nucynta.

The suit does not mince words about the devastating effect opioid drugs have had on the state: “ The State of New Jersey is facing a deadly opioid epidemic that is, both nationally and locally, unprecedented in scope and devastating in intensity. Widespread opioid addiction is killing New Jersey residents, removing middle-aged people from their prime workforce years, and compounding the vulnerability and health complications of the elderly,” it reads.

“Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Janssen”) and its predecessor companies have directly contributed to the opioid crisis by aggressively and deceptively marketing the prescription opioids Nucynta and Nucynta ER and by disseminating misleading and inaccurate statements — to both patients and prescribers — regarding the risks and benefits of Janssen products and of opioids generally,” the suit reads.

The lawsuit accuses Janssen and other companies that manufacture opioids of engaging in a campaign to convince doctors that pain was under-treated, and persuade them to prescribe opioids for patients that traditionally would have been given other less addictive painkillers.

“Ultimately, opioid manufactures (and the front groups that they funded) sought to change the overall medical perception of opioids so that opioids would be used not just for acute pain and end-of-life care, but routinely for chronic conditions like moderate back, neck, and arthritis pain.”

The suit presents evidence that this campaign was “profoundly successful” and resulted in a quadrupling of opioid sales in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010 and the “reversal of long-standing medical practice” that restricted opioids to only acute pain or cancer pain.

In language that echoes previous generations’ lawsuits against tobacco companies, the suit accuses Janssen of deceptive marketing that claimed Nucynta and Nucynta ER were safer, milder, and less addictive than competitors like OxyContin.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal filed the suit in Mercer County Superior Court on November 12. The suit demands that Janssen stop “deceptive marketing” practices and be forced to pay civil penalties and damages for the harm inflicted.

The lawsuit is heavily redacted at the request of the company and leaves out the details of the company’s alleged efforts to mislead the public and healthcare providers. For example, the document blacks out the amount of money that Janssen spent marketing Nucynta. The state is asking a judge to allow an un-redacted version to be released.

Janssen, which has a facility on Trenton-Harbourton Road in Titusville, denies the charges.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals (JJ), 1125 Trenton-Harbourton Road, Box 200, Titusville 08560. 609-730-2000. www.janssen.com.

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