J&J Wins one Lawsuit, New Cases Loom

  • J&J Wins one Lawsuit, New Cases Loom (c) GVictoria/ShutterstockJ&J Wins one Lawsuit, New Cases Loom (c) GVictoria/Shutterstock

US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson has been on a roller coaster ride for around two years, and its fortunes – along with its share price – continued moving up and down as 2019 gave way to 2020.

In December, the company chalked up another win in the ongoing series of lawsuits from people alleging that its talc-based baby powder caused their cancer. At mid-month, a Los Angeles, California, jury sided with the manufacturer and rejected allegations by a woman who claimed the talc contained asbestos and caused her mesothelioma.

At the beginning of January, however, J&J was handed another talc lawsuit, the first to be filed by a state. New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, accused the company of misleading consumers, especially children and black and Hispanic women, about the safety of its talc products. He said it “concealed and failed to warn consumers about the dangers associated with their talc products.”

Across 2019, reports show that J&J won eight talc lawsuits. Altogether, it still faces nearly 17,000 related complaints. It has successfully appealed nearly all of the cases it lost, and last year won cases eight outright, according to reports. A nearly $4.7 billion decision from 2018, one of the largest product liability judgments ever recorded, still stands.

In October 2019, the New York-based manufacturer recalled one batch of its baby powder out of what it said was an "abundance of caution," after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected sub-trace levels of asbestos in one bottle. Later, J&J said its own tests had found no asbestos, but FDA stood by its result. 

On Jan. 2020, the US state of Washington sued Johnson & Johnson over its opioid drugs, claiming it used deceptive marketing to claim they were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction.

This lawsuit, which seeks civil penalties and damages, says the company violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act, was negligent and a public nuisance.  Washington is also asking that J&J’s pharmaceuticals arm Janssen forfeit profits made in the state as a result of its behavior.

State attorney general, Bob Ferguson, putting the figure in the “millions of dollars” range.

Ferguson said prescriptions and sales of opioids in Washington increased more than 500% between 1997 and 2011, and at the 2011 peak of the epidemic  more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed.

In a statement reacting to the latest suit, Janssen said its opioid marketing was ‘’appropriate and responsible” and that it had worked with regulators to ensure safe use. 

In November 2019, a judge in the state of Oklahoma finalized an order directing Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million to address the opioid crisis, charging that it and its subsidiaries helped fuel the crisis with an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that overstated how the effectiveness of the drugs for treating chronic pain, while  understating the risk of addiction.

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