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New York files $2 billion lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for its alleged role in opioid epidemic

The Chief, The Opioid Playbook
The Chief, The Opioid Playbook 43:15

New York state is suing Johnson & Johnson and looking to recover $2 billion over the pharmaceutical giant's alleged role in the opioid epidemic, which has left millions of Americans addicted to the potent painkillers, and hundreds of thousands dead.

A division of J&J poured millions of dollars into marketing opioids and downplaying the risks, according to the lawsuit, announced Thursday. The company continued to promote the drugs even after government officials warned that opioids were much more dangerous than other pharmaceutical products, according to the suit.

"The opioid crisis has taken too many lives and New York State will continue to take action against those who helped fuel this public health catastrophe and bring a measure of justice to families who have lost loved ones," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a statement. "Misrepresentation of opioids to consumers for profit is inexcusable and we will use every tool necessary to help ensure those responsible are held fully accountable."

Oklahoma AG on the "shameful stream of commerce" that led to the opioid crisis 05:31

Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

The company has faced considerable litigation in other states related to opioid abuse. Last year, an Oklahoma judge ordered the drugmaker to pay nearly $500 million after ruling that it had fueled opioid addiction in the state.

In contrast, New York is not suing J&J directly for promoting a dangerous drug. Instead, the suit is being brought by the state's Department of Financial Services and alleges that the company committed insurance fraud by encouraging doctors and patients to use the addictive pain killers. 

New York authorities contend that those prescriptions and the resulting costs associated with patients getting addicted to opioids represents insurance fraud. The case is expected to go to trial in mid-January.

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