OAG is suing J&J firms over opioid abuse in the CNMI


The CNMI Office of the Attorney General is suing one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the United States over what it describes as “deceptive opioid marketing that has resulted in a devastating rise in opioid abuse, dependence, addiction, and overdose deaths in the CNMI.”

According to the complaint filed by assistant attorney general Hunter Hunt with the Superior Court, the OAG is suing Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. on behalf of the CNMI pursuant to the Consumer Protection Act, Unfair Business Practices Act, and the common law of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hunt stated that Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and through its company, Janssen, defendants have manufactured, marketed, and sold five branded opioid products: Duragesic, Nucynta, Nucynta ER, Ultram, and Ultram ER. These opioid products allegedly kills hundreds of people every year, including in the CNMI, while thousands more are suffering from negative health consequences short of death.

“The rise in opioid prescriptions caused…a devastating rise in opioid abuse, dependence, addiction, and overdose deaths in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Every community in the Commonwealth suffers from the opioid crisis of addiction and death. countless others have had their lives ruined by a friend or family member’s addiction or death,” the lawsuit stated.

Because of this, the OAG wants the Superior court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys—and any other person in active concert or participation with any or all defendants—from engaging in deceptive acts and practices in violation of Consumer Protection Act.

Also, the OAG wants the court to order the defendants to pay compensatory restitution as set forth in the Consumer Protection Act, abate the public nuisance by paying compensatory restitution, and to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs of court, as provided under the Consumer Protection Act.

According to the lawsuit, in promoting its branded opioid products, Janssen minimized or omitted discussion with doctors of the risk of addiction and misrepresented the potential for abuse of its opioid prescription drugs with purportedly abuse-deterrent formulations.

“Janssen failed to disclose ceiling doses when taking prescription opioids, misrepresented that the risk of addiction is low in older persons, misrepresented that the risk of addiction from taking prescription opioids is a myth, and minimized rate and risk of withdrawal from taking prescription opioids,” the lawyer stated.

The OAG’s first cause of action in pursuing a lawsuit against the large pharmaceutical company is violations of the Consumer Protection Act and Unfair Business Practices Act.

The defendants allegedly misrepresented the risks and benefits their opioid products and opioids generally in the CNMI.

“Defendants, in the conduct of commerce, engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the Consumer Protection Act and Unfair Business Practices Act,” Hunt stated.

The CNMI’s second cause of action was Public Nuisance pursuant to CNMI law.

Hunt said the defendants allegedly created a public nuisance by unreasonably interfering with rights common to the public as prohibited by the common law of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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