Unsealed court records reveal marketing scheme in that helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic

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FRANKFORT, KY. (WTVQ) – On Wednesday officials announced that unsealed court documents that reveal data on how one opioid maker allegedly fueled the state’s opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing its powerful opioid drugs to Kentucky doctors.

They say the complaint, filed in April 2018, to be unsealed so Kentuckians could see how New Jersey-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Janssen pressed physicians to prescribe its drugs, Duragesic and Nucynta, to more patients and at higher doses and worked to overcome physicians’ reluctance to prescribe these opioid drugs.

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The complaint, which also named Janssen’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, was initially filed under seal to comply with subpoena procedure employed in the investigation.

Officials say previously redacted information in the complaint, includes:

• Janssen specifically trained its sales representatives to overcome “obstacles” to prescribing their opioids, including identifying doctors’ reluctance to prescribe schedule II controlled substances, and had them role-play interactions with prescribers to learn to persuade them to increase the use of Nucynta ER.

• Janssen sales representatives were informed that there was a correlation between sales calls and prescribing and Janssen instructed sales representatives to call doctors as often as ten times in order to persuade them to prescribe their opioids.

• Janssen paid three Kentucky prescribers to give 79 different speaker programs.

• Janssen’s sales representatives told Kentucky prescribers that the fentanyl patch, Duragesic, had “no street value,” thereby implying it was not likely to be misused.

• Janssen’s sales representatives were trained to represent that Nucynta ER had fewer side effects than other opioids and to explain that a patient’s pain was reduced at higher doses. They also told Kentucky doctors that Janssen’s opioids could be used for “non-malignant” pain and that they were “not only for cancer [patients].”