Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a civil Medicaid fraud lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (and a subsidiary) for misrepresentations made to the Texas Medicaid program concerning the opioid drug, Duragesic.
Duragesic is a transdermal patch containing the painkiller fentanyl. It administers the drug through the skin and is intended for severe chronic pain accompanying serious medical conditions. Each patch is intended to provide 72 hours of pain relief.
According to the suit brought by Attorney Paxton’s office, Duragesic’s manufacturers “directed their sales representatives to deliver false and misleading messages about their fentanyl opioid drug to doctors in Texas, including Medicaid doctors. Sales representatives told doctors Duragesic had fewer side effects, worked better, and posed less risk of addiction than other opioids, despite multiple FDA reprimands that those claims were false and misleading.” The attorney general claims that as a result of these misrepresentations, the pharmaceutical companies obtained taxpayer-funded Texas Medicaid reimbursement for the fentanyl-based patch, all while contributing to the rise of the opioid epidemic.
This lawsuit was announced on September 4, 2019, just a little over a week after a judge in Oklahoma ordered Johnson & Johnson, along with subsidiary companies, to pay over $500 million to help the state combat the opioid epidemic. The court found that Johnson & Johnson and subsidiaries had engaged in “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids … compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.”
The Oklahoma Attorney General stated that Johnson & Johnson engaged in these misleading marketing practices due to the potential financial windfall from sales of the opioid medications. Texas’s AG had similar words: “Like other opioid manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson misled the state of Texas and the entire medical profession about the danger of these drugs in order to turn the greatest profit, In this case, Johnson & Johnson not only defrauded Texas taxpayers and diverted precious healthcare dollars from Texans in need, they contributed to the opioid crisis that has destroyed the lives of an untold number of Texas families.”
The Texas lawsuit claims that the company violated the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act. According to the claim, the companies responsible for Duragesic, which was originally formulated specifically for cancer-related pain, had hatched a long-term scheme to make the drug become a “blockbuster” on the painkiller market. This included “educating” the medical community on the “undertreatment” of pain. It alleges that the companies trained their sales staff to deliver false and misleading message to healthcare providers in order to make the drug stand out from its competition. This included creating false and misleading educational materials which sales representatives would deliver to providers.
The Texas Attorney General is seeking a jury trial and the repayment of all Medicaid money that the pharmaceutical company and subsidiaries received for the drug.