By Mark A. York, Mass Tort Nexus Media
(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 $572 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 have 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.