Bloomberg reports that according to recently released court filings in Oklahoma, a Johnson & Johnson (J&JJ) subsidy in Tasmania, grew opium poppies in its Nucynta medication sold to other drug makers for use in their opium-based products. The State of Oklahoma claims in the lawsuit that J&J targeted children and elderly in its opioid marketing. Could this be true? Apparently, Oklahoma is the first state to bring forth claims against opioid makers including J&J’s Janssen unit and of course the infamous Sackler’s and their Purdue Pharma. J&J was supplying intermediary inputs in the opiate supply chain; the Oklahoma plaintiff has labeled them “Kingpin behind the public-health emergency, profiting at every stage” according to the Bloomberg report. The state is seeking over $25 billion in damages. Presently 36 states and more than 1,600 U.S. cities and counties are suing pharma and distributors in the billions of dollars to address the alleged participation in the opioid crisis.
The Bloomberg article noted that J&J sold its opium-poppy processing business in Australia (Tasmania) to U.S. private equity firm SK Capital Partners LP. Known as Tasmanian Alkaloids pty Ltd., it apparently is one of a limited set of companies with permission to process poppies to make opiates for medical and scientific needs. J&J’s Janssen sold the U.S. rights to Nucynta in 2015 to DepoMed Inc. (now called Assertio Therapeutics Inc.) for $1.05 billion. J&J actively markets Duragesic, a fentanyl-based pain patch.
If J&J’s Janssen was in fact improperly marketing opioids to children and the elderly then the rule of law, hopefully, will be decisive, swift and severe. As far as Janssen’s legal right to grow poppies for medical and scientific purposes this could be a stretch. We have not reviewed the case titled State of Oklahoma v Purdue Pharma LP, No. ZCJ-2017-816, Oklahoma District Court for Cleveland County (Norman).
We took a look at SK Capital Partner’s Tasmanian Alkaloids which “is a world leader in agricultural R&D and the extraction and purification of high value plant-derived products, with particular focus on alkaloid raw materials used in the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients.” The Tasmanian Alkaloids website of was not working at the time of this articles publication. We wonder if they rebranded? TrialSite News will monitor the opioid litigation.