At Oklahoma Trial, J&J Opioid-Sales Tactics Called a ‘Smart Strategy for Drug Dealer’

By | June 13, 2019

Johnson & Johnson used promotional gimmicks for its opioid painkillers that are similar to how criminal drug dealers try to boost sales, a pharmaceutical-industry critic told a judge hearing Oklahoma’s claim that the company helped fuel a crisis of addiction.

J&J’s use of coupons allowing patients to get free Duragesic pain patches was improper, said Andrew Kolodny, a Brandeis University professor and opioid researcher who testified at the trial Wednesday on behalf of the state, which says the company is liable under public-nuisance laws.

Offering free pain patches “seems like a very smart strategy for a drug dealer,” Kolodny said in his second day of testimony in the case. In the past, he has criticized opioid makers such as J&J, Purdue Pharma LP and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for downplaying the addictive properties of the painkillers and over-selling their benefits.

J&J objected to Kolodny’s characterization, and Judge Thad Balkman — who is hearing the case in Norman, Oklahoma, without a jury — said he wouldn’t consider the testimony.

Balkman will decide if J&J has to pay as much as $13 billion to deal with current and future government costs associated with the public-health crisis of opioid addiction, including treatment and prevention.

“Dr. Kolodny has now stooped to name-calling in what is speculative and factually incorrect testimony,” John Sparks, the attorney for J&J and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. unit. “Janssen responsibly marketed its prescription opioid medicines, which came with exhaustive FDA-approved labeling detailing potential risks, and vetted its promotional materials for compliance with FDA requirements.”

The case is State of Oklahoma v. Purdue Pharma LP, CJ-2017-816, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, District Court (Norman).

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