MADISON, W.Va. — Separate lawsuits filed Friday in Boone County Circuit Court allege drug manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals played a role in West Virginia’s opioid epidemic by covering up the addictive nature of their drugs.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the lawsuits during a Friday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We want to make sure that we hold everyone accountable who helped or was involved in the flooding of pain pills here in our state,” Morrisey said.
The state has previously filed and settled lawsuits against the distributors of opoiids. Morrisey said the makers of the drugs, like Johnson & Johnson and Teva, also played a role.
“There’s no such thing as one entity being solely responsible but a lot of these entities, we believe, had misrepresented the nature of their product, minimizing the risk of addiction and it’s important for us to hold those companies accountable,” Morrisey said.
Specifically, the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals alleges representatives of the companies intentionally persuaded doctors to use their opoids even though doctors expressed concerns about their addictive nature.
The lawsuit against Teva focuses on its cancer painkiller Actiq. The suit alleges representatives of the company also shopped the opioid to to non-oncologists and pain clinic doctors
“There’s evidence that will show that a number of speakers and people tied to the company would recommend that Actiq and others would be prescribed to patients (non-cancer patients) with chronic pain,” Morrisey said. “That’s an example of a situation where we believe the company misrepresented or stepped over the line.”
Morrisey said his in-house staff has been researching the cases that resulted in Friday’s lawsuits for about 18 months. He said work on other possible lawsuits continues.
“We’re just going to keep going down and looking at every single entity that was involved in this process,” Morrisey said.
The lawsuits allege the manufacturers violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance.
That state settled an opioid lawsuit with pharmaceutical company McKesson back in May for $37 million. State officials said at the time the settlement pushed the total paid in West Virginia’s pursuit of 13 pharmaceutical wholesalers to in excess of $84 million. They said that as the largest pharmaceutical settlement in state history.
Others, like U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, have criticized Morrisey and Gov. Jim Justice for accepting the settlement.
“How can Patrick Morrisey and Jim Justice look West Virginians in the eye and tell them $37 million is fair?” Manchin said in May. “It’s pennies on the dollar to what McKesson cost our state.”