CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office has filed lawsuits against two major opioid manufacturers.
In the complaints filed Aug. 23 in Boone Circuit Court, Morrisey claims Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals helped fuel the opioid epidemic by engaging in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks and benefits of opioid painkillers.
“The widespread deception alleged in our lawsuits cannot be tolerated,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Bad actors within the pharmaceutical supply channel cause immense harm to the state of West Virginia and its citizens. They must be held accountable for their actions.”
The lawsuits claim the defendants fraudulently concealed misconduct, mischaracterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing inherently greater risks.
The Johnson & Johnson complaint claims its subsidiary and co-defendant, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, turned the standard of care on its head by choosing to persuade concerned doctors that the opioids they had been unwilling to prescribe were more effective and safe enough for wide and long-term use, even for treatment of relatively minor pain conditions.
Similarly, the Teva lawsuit alleges that sales representatives for that manufacturer marketed the fentanyl-based opioid Actiq to non-oncologists and pain clinic doctors, even though the representatives knew the drug in question was for cancer patients. The Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. lawsuit also names Cephalon Inc. as a defendant. Both are subsidiaries of Teva Pharmaceuticals Limited.
Both lawsuits allege the manufacturers’ conduct and campaign of misrepresentations led to opioids becoming a common treatment for chronic pain in West Virginia, a reality that fueled substance abuse and the state’s skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths.
The complaints allege the manufacturers’ conduct violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.
Boone Circuit Court case numbers 19-C-104 (Teva) and 19-C-105 (J&J)