Opiate /ˈōpēət/ noun 1) a drug with morphinelike effects, derived from opium. 2) Oxycontin, Percocet, Heroin, Morphine et al
(Cherry Hill) — Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing several bluechip drugmakers for dubiously marketing opioid-based drugs like Oxycontin. Two NJ-based firms, Allergan and Johnson & Johnson are named in the suit. Specifically DeWine is charging five pharmaceutical companies whose deceptive marketing practices “helped unleash a health-care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social and deadly consequences in the state of Ohio.”
DeWine is of course referring to his state’s addiction to opiates like Percocet and heroin.
In addition to triggering a “human tragedy of epic proportion” on his state, DeWine’s suit alleges Medicaid fraud and violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. According to DeWine, drug marketers “deny and trivialize (risks while) peddling prescription opioids to win over doctors with their smooth pitches and glossy brochures that downplayed the risks and highlighted the benefits.”
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, phoned in a boilerplate statement from their leafly New Brunswick campus:
“Janssen has acted appropriately, responsibly and in the best interests of patients regarding our opioid pain medications, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about the known risks of the medications on every product label.”
Janssen’s claims of responsible practices are specious in light of a growing body count. But here’s a non-disputable fact: Janssen markets and sells Fentanyl patches, one of the most lethal, addictive drug delivery systems in the history of the planet. Fentanyl is “50-100 times more potent” than Morphine and heroin. It’s the stuff that killed Prince and Michael Jackson.
Fentanyl also killed at least 417 NJ residents in 2015, the most recent year these stats are available.
“As bad as it was in 2015, it’s going to be horrendous in 2016,” Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said. “The numbers are just going to continue to spiral out of control.”
Wouldn’t it be awesome if NJ Attorney General Christopher Porrino joined DeWine’s suit? Or better yet issued his own subpoenas? Turns out someone in the AG office already hit the subpoena button.
A publicly traded company, Janssen must disclose lawsuits and subpoenas, etc. A quick Google search (Janssen+NJ+subpoena) yielded this gem: “J&J says in March 2017, New Jersey Attorney General Division of Consumer Affairs issued subpoena to Janssen Pharmaceuticals related to some practices in marketing opioids.”
InsiderNJ reached out to NJ Attorney General Christopher Porrino to get the 4-11.
“With regard to the pharmaceutical industry, we won’t comment on whether we are or are not investigating a particular individual or company,” his office told InsiderNJ. “Having said that, we do take very seriously the concerns raised by many about the alleged role that pharmaceutical companies may have played in marketing these drugs and creating this epidemic.”
A little vague but this much is true: a subpoena is not a social call. These drug makers, they’ll be made to answer for something. And naturally we’ll be watching very closely because opiate use in America has quadrupled since 1999. The United States now represents 80% of global opiate consumption.
“The causes of the opioid epidemic are many,” AG Porrino told InsiderNJ. “One thing we know from recent studies is that today eight of ten heroin addicts first became addicted through use of opioid pain medication.”
Eight of ten. Let that sink in for a second. Meanwhile, drug makers spend a fortune marketing these deadly drugs to maximize profits.
But they’re not alone pushing this profitable poison on the public. Indeed there’s plenty of lobbyist backup in DC (+ state capitols) doing BigPharma’s multi-billion dollar bidding. They play the part in Trenton. They’re in the State House every day, shamelessly pimping the immensely profitable, free-wheeling, no-limits approach to opiate therapy that led us to this point.
They’ve spent the last several years literally making the same dishonest pitch that landed Janssen Pharmaceuticals on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s legal shit-list. Only instead of bamboozling doctors, they were busy goosing lawmakers and regulators to unleash a torrent of addictive narcotics on our state.
“It is just and it is right that the people who played a significant role in creating this mess should now pay to clean it up,” DeWine said.
There’s plenty of blame to share for NJ’s opiate crisis. But we won’t solve NJ’s opiate menace without buy-in from the gatekeepers i.e.: drug makers and physicians, a point underscored by NJ Attorney General Chris Porrino.
“While we have aggressively targeted doctors who indiscriminately prescribe these medications, we have never taken the position that the medical profession as a whole should be vilified. Quite to the contrary, we view the medical profession as a partner in changing how opioid painkillers are prescribed, in detecting abuse and treating addiction.”
Jay Lassiter is the Court Jester of New Jersey Politics. His radical agenda includes brunch and laundry. When he’s not on Twitter, Jay is probably working to keep the government out of your womb. Or your bong.