“MORE BAD CONDUCT SHOWN IN OKLAHOMA OPIOID TRIAL”
By Mark A. York (August 26, 2019)
(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The first court verdict to come out of the massive litigation over the opioid crisis has resulted in a verdict against Johnson & Johnson for $550 MILLION at 4:05p.m. today, August 26, 2019 in one of the most important drug related lawsuits in U.S. history.
This is the first of several upcoming opioid lawsuits against a drugmaker to go to trial, and it could set a precedent for cases across the country. Depending on how the judge rules, it could give lawyers a new strategy for holding large corporations accountable.
For weeks, the state of Oklahoma has argued that Johnson & Johnson and its pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen helped create a “public nuisance” by intensely marketing opioid painkillers while downplaying the risk of addiction.
“This is very personal to all of us,” said state attorney Reggie Whitten. “My partner lost a niece to this opioid epidemic. I lost my firstborn son to the opioid epidemic.”
The 2017 filing named multiple defendants. Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA settled out of court for a combined total of $355 million, without admitting wrongdoing.
But Johnson & Johnson and Janssen decided to go to trial.
“When you’re right, you fight,” said their attorney, Sabrina Strong, a partner at O’Melveny and Myers. “And that’s what you’re seeing here. We have sympathy for those who suffer from substance abuse. But Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in this country.”
THIS TYPE OF COMMENTARY SEEMS TO BE A REPEAT OF J&J’s NOW OFT REPEATED CLAIM “WE’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG” WHICH IS NOW PROVEN TO BE AN OUTRIGHT FALSE STATEMENT, WHETHER BY DEFENSE COUNSEL OR THE COMPANY PR MACHINE. JOHNSON & JOHNSON HAS BEEN SHOWN TO HAVE OUTRIGHT LIED, MISLED THE PUBLIC ANFD MANIPULATED SCIENCE AND MEDICAL INDUSTRY OPINIONS RELATED TO MANY COMPANY PHARMACEUTIAL PRODUCTS AND THE RELATED MARKETING CAMPAIGNS.
J&J HISTORY OF BAD CONDUCT
Payments To Industry Insiders
Introduction of evidence in J&J Talc cancer trial in the last year, show that two individuals involved in the Cosmetic Industry Review (CIR), which has deemed talcum powder to be safe, which is data J&J has relied on in prior trials, had received payments from Johnson & Johnson for speeches and other engagements. This damaging information was discovered while cross-examining the group’s former director, Alan Andersen, who was a defense witness, and he was forced to disclose the prior unknown financial relationship of the CIR and Johnson & Johnson.
A major blow to J&J’s defense came when a defense witness, Senior Johnson & Johnson epidemiologist, Dr. Douglas Weed, was revealed to have been sanctioned for perjury in another trial in North Carolina, for lying under oath about whether he retained notes to his expert report, which plaintiffs attorneys were able to show.
“J&J presented these unbelievable and non-credible witnesses on an issue that is very important to our case,” Smith said. “Attempts to influence witnesses and alter facts, along with the fact other companies are warning of the cancer link and have been warning for eight to 12 months now. This was new evidence that proved very compelling to the jury as well as a reflection of J&J’s willingness to manipulate the trial process in their favor”, leading many to wonder what else J&J may have done.
In a post trial statement J&J declined to address the specifics of the case, stating: “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder. In April, the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, ‘The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.’ We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s baby powder.”
In response, the Plaintiff team stated “The new evidence that came into the California case could play a role in the next talcum powder trial, which is set for Oct. 16 in Missouri, we certainly think it is evidence that should be presented, and we’ll make every attempt to do so,” Ted Meadows said.
Meanwhile, separate from the Oklahoma opioid trial, reports are now official that the Department of Justice is pursuing a criminal probe into whether J&J lied about possible cancer risks in its talcum baby powder. The investigation follows a slew of talc-related lawsuits filed against the company, two of which recently resulted in multimillion-dollar plaintiff awards.
Now that ‘OPIOID BIG PHARMA” and their executive suites are being held accountable by the public and in both state and federal courts, there needs to be a formal accounting of how and why these “pharmaceutical titans” were able to develop dangerous drugs and then create horrendous off-label and life threatening marketing campaigns, all the while earning literally billions of dollars annually. At what point do the US consumers and general public say “enough is enough” and demand the corporate decision makers be held criminally liable as a regular part of the executive suite checks and balances oversight?
As long as the drug makers “cost of litigation” remains part of the risk management analysis in the year-end SEC filings, it’s likely that dangerous drugs and the bad conduct that often travels along, will remain a “cost of doing business” and the trail of destruction will continued to be ignored by the Alex Gorskys and Richard Sacklers of the drug industry.
Risperdal Off-Label Drug Marketing
Johnson & Johnson conducted a misleading marketing campaign for their anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults with schizophrenia, Johnson & Johnson marketed the drug for use in children.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Johnson & Johnson, and their subsidiary, Janssen, were aware of the dangers the drug Risperdal posed when used by children. Even so, company representatives marketed the drug to mental health professionals who worked with children.
As a result of their misleading Risperdal marketing campaign, Johnson & Johnson was ordered in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice to pay a $2.2 billion fine.
Risperdal was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 for the treatment of schizophrenia in adults. It was not approved for use in children or adolescents until 13 years later, in 2006.
Evidence from lawsuits showed that pharmaceutical representatives from Johnson & Johnson had been pushing doctors (including the plaintiffs doctor) to prescribe Risperdal to children and teenagers even though it had not yet been tested on young people
Juries have found that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn patients and doctors of harmful potential side effects, and verdicts against J&J and Risperdal marketing have been ongoing in courts for more than five years over this medication.
Johnson & Johnson paid the multi-billion dollar fine to the Department of Justice in criminal and civil fines as a result of the now proven illegally marketing of Risperdal for unapproved purposes, but are now denying in civil lawsuits that they were involved in anything improper in off-label marketing of Risperdal. Individual patients who were harmed by Risperdal, do not yet have a remedy other than filing a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.
Risperdal Male Breast Growth
When used by children and adolescents, Risperdal has been known to cause male breast growth, also known as gynecomastia, due to the drug triggering the production of the hormone prolactin. For some patients who have suffered from gynecomastia as a Risperdal side effect, they have also dealt with decreased psychological and emotional well being as a result of physical changes.
Johnson & Johnson says its opioid products account for less than one percent of the Oklahoma market. But the state disputes that.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter told CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca, “They made money whether they sold their drugs or when somebody else sold opioids, because they were supplying everybody else. And this ‘one percent’ thing, that’s a complete canard.”
If the judge rules against Johnson & Johnson, the “public nuisance” argument that was previously used successfully to fight Big Tobacco could possibly be used in opioid lawsuits set to go to trial in Ohio this fall.
“Thousands of people being addicted to prescription opioids, thousands of people dying, you’ve a public nuisance, you’ve got harm that’s occurring,” said Hunter.
Both sides in Oklahoma say they’ll appeal if the judge rules against them.
In addition to the cases in Ohio, suits were filed last week in West Virginia accusing Johnson & Johnson, as well as Teva, of misrepresenting the risks of their opioid products.
The J&J CEO Alex Gorsky approved bad conduct and medical industry manipulation dovetails perfectly along with the Purdue Pharma and Sackler Family marketing abuses, that were uncovered in a federal criminal indictment. The indictment of Purdue and company executives, was hushed up by a $650 million fine to the US Department of Justice in 2007, by none other than bad-conduct fixer Rudy Giuliani.
Many states including Masschusetts, (see complaint below) have decided to sue the Sackler family directly, to reclaim some of the billions the Sacklers earned over the many years the opioid crisis has killed thousands of people.
Related-Official Court Records: Purdue and Sackler Family Bad Conduct
In 2007, Purdue Frederick Co. (not Purdue Pharma) and three company executives pled guilty to misbranding OxyContin and agreed to pay $634.5 million to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, in the US District Court of Virginia, see Purdue Criminal Plea Agreement US Department of Justice May 10, 2007. This plea deal “a get-out-of-jail free card” was engineered by none other than former New York City Mayor and political/corporate fixer, Rudy Guiliani, by directly leveraging high level US DOJ contacts and other DC insiders to derail the prosecution of Purdue Pharma, and instead offer up Purdue Fredrick Co. as the guilty party and thereby permitting the multi-billion dollar per year Oxycontin assembly line to continue operations.
The Sackler family has always been protected by the company shield, even though their most profitable selling opioid drug Oxycontin, and its boardroom coordinated marketing campaign was the brainchild and a direct result of the Purdue Pharma company founders, the Sackler brothers and their tried and true business model.
he Sacklers named in the lawsuits include Theresa and Beverly, widows of Purdue founders, brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler and Ilene, Kathe and Mortimer David Alfons Sackler, three of Mortimer’s children; Jonathan and Richard Sackler, Raymond’s two sons; and David Sackler, Raymond’s grandson. The Sackler family is worth conservatively, an estimated$13 billion according to Forbes, which has been generated from sales of OxyContin. As is normal procedure by the Sackler family and the company itself, the Sackler family feuding members always decline requests for comment on the catastrophic opioid crisis and avoid discussing any Purdue Pharma links to how the crisis came about.
As Purdue Pharma comes to grips with the fact that they are being designated as the primary litigation targets of states, counties and cities across the country for being the Opiate Big Pharma leader in creating the current opioid crisis in the United States, they may need to determine how they will pay the billions of dollars in jury verdicts and affiliated legal settlements resulting from the lawsuits that now number over 1,200 cases in state and federal courts.
The entire Sackler brothers’ Oxycontin marketing plan followed their previously proven drug marketing test drive of “Valium” – when Hoffman-LaRoche hired the Sacklers to market their new drug “diazepam” commonly known as Valium and its sister drug Librium.
While running the drug advertising company, Arthur Sackler became a publisher, starting a biweekly newspaper, the Medical Tribune, which eventually reached 600,000 physicians. He scoffed at suggestions that there was a conflict of interest between his roles as the head of a pharmaceutical-advertising company and the publisher of a periodical for doctors. Later it emerged that a company he owned, MD Publications, had paid the chief of the antibiotics division of the FDA, Henry Welch, nearly $300,000 in exchange for Welch’s help in promoting certain drugs. Sometimes, when Welch was giving a speech, he inserted a drug’s advertising slogan into his remarks. After the payments were discovered, Welch was forced to resign from the FDA.
When Purdue Pharma started selling its prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin in 1996, Dr. Richard Sackler asked people gathered for the launch party to envision natural disasters like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a blizzard. The debut of OxyContin, said Sackler — a member of the family that started and controls the company and then a company executive — “will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”
Five years later, as questions were raised about the risk of addiction and overdoses that came with taking OxyContin and opioid medications, Sackler outlined a strategy that critics have long accused the company of unleashing: divert the blame onto others, particularly the people who became addicted to opioids themselves.
“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Sackler wrote in an email in February 2001. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
Sackler’s comments at the party and his email are contained in newly public portions of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue that alleges that the company, the Sackler family, and company executives misled prescribers and patients as they aimed to blanket the country with prescriptions for their addictive medications.
Addiction Recovery Issues
White drug users addicted to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids have had near-exclusive access to buprenorphine, a drug that curbs the craving for opioids and reduces the chance of a fatal overdose. That’s according to a study out Wednesday from the University of Michigan. It appears in JAMA Psychiatry.
“White populations are almost 35 times as likely to have a buprenorphine-related visit than black Americans,” said Dr. Pooja Lagisetty, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and the study’s lead author.
“This epidemic over the last few years has been framed by many as largely a white epidemic, but we know now that’s not true,” Lagisetty said.
What is true, Lagisetty added, is that most of the white patients either paid cash (40%) or relied on private insurance (35%) to fund their buprenorphine treatment. The fact that just 25% of the visits were paid for through Medicaid and Medicare “does highlight that many of these visits could be very costly for persons of low income,” Lagisetty said.
Doctors and nurse practitioners can demand cash payments because there’s a shortage of clinicians who can prescribe buprenorphine, according to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Only about 5% of physicians have taken the special training required to prescribe buprenorphine.
“The few that are doing it are really able to name their price, and that’s what we’re seeing here and that’s the reason why individuals with more resources — who are more likely to be white — are more likely to access treatment with buprenorphine,” said Kolodny, who was not involved in the study.
Kolodny wants the federal government to eliminate the required special training for buprenorphine and a related cap on the number of patients a doctor can manage on the drug.
Some physicians who’ve studied racial disparities in addiction treatment say the root causes date to 2000, when buprenorphine was approved. At that time, proponents argued that buprenorphine was needed to help treat suburban youth, according to Dr. Helena Hansenat New York University. Those young patients didn’t see themselves as addicted to heroin in the same way as hard-core urban heroin users who went to methadone clinics for treatment.
“Buprenorphine was introduced as private-office treatment, for a private market with the means to pay,” said Hansen, an associate professor of psychiatry and anthropology. “So the unequal dissemination of buprenorphine for opioid dependence is not accidental.”
Hansen added that the fix must include universal access to treatment in a primary care setting, an end to the criminalization of opioid dependence (which puts more blacks in prison for drug use than whites) and more federal funding to expand access to buprenorphine for all patients.
Several leaders in the fight to reduce opioid overdose deaths say the study results are disturbing.
“It really demands for us to be looking at equitable treatment for addiction for African Americans as we do for white Americans,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center and the former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Botticelli identified key issues that may contribute to the racial treatment gap and deserve further investigation. For example, he wants to know if Medicaid reimbursement rates are simply too low to entice more doctors to work with low-income patients, or if there are too few inner-city doctors prescribing buprenorphine or if African Americans themselves are somehow reluctant to seek this form of treatment.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, called the findings surprising and disturbing. Surprising because the disparity is so large, and disturbing because her agency has prioritized educating doctors about the value of prescribing buprenorphine.
Volkow also expressed disappointment that federal parity laws, which are supposed to guarantee equal access to all types of medications, don’t seem to be working for buprenorphine.
“We need to ensure that we have capacity to provide these treatments,” Volkow said, “because if you say you have to pay for them, but there are no services that can provide the treatments, then the issue of paying for them is secondary.”
Volkow has noted that fewer than half of Americans with an opioid use disorder have access to buprenorphine or two other medications used to treat opioid addiction: methadone and naltrexone. Volkow said she’s glad that the use of buprenorphine is on the rise, but the U.S. needs to understand why this lifesaving treatment isn’t benefiting all patients who need it.
Related materials >Targeting Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns: Across The USA
OPIOD LITIGATION UPDATE: FOR FEDERAL AND STATE COURT DOCKETS
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