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Fentanyl Fines and Lawsuits

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Wellsburg, WV:State officials reported to the Associated Press that a judge has fined the giant drug company Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica $4.5 million for providing West Virginia physicians misleading information about two prescription drugs, including the Duragesic pain patch, also known as the fentanyl pain patch.

PrescriptionThe case was filed in 2004 under the West Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which authorizes a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation. At trial, the court determined that 4,450 violations had occurred, which could have resulted in a civil penalty of more than $22 million.

Brooke Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan said the drug company sent brochures on the narcotic pain patch Duragesic despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration had sent letters to the defendants, warning them that their promotional products contained false or misleading statements. The court found that the drug company knowingly sent false information to make the Duragesic patch "more appealing for sale".

This blatant form of false advertising can put the health and lives of fentanyl users at serious risk.

Meanwhile, a Madison County woman has filed a $1 million wrongful death complaint
against doctors and Anderson Hospital, claiming her husband, Billy Terry, died after experiencing respiratory failure at the hospital. The lawsuit alleges that the hospital
was negligent by failing to question the doses of fentanyl given combined with a morphine epidural, by failing to recognize the signs of inadequate respiratory function and by failing to promptly call for an anesthesiologist to evaluate impending respiratory failure.

Likely more lawsuits will follow. Karen (not her real name pending a lawsuit) in Arizona says she had to discontinue using the Fentanyl pain patches because of continued symptoms of fentanyl overdose such as shallow and slow breathing, dizziness and overall weakness. "I was constantly falling and confused and my weakness made me drop things and break them or spill them," Karen says. "Sometimes the patches would leak, and I would wind up with a severe rash, in addition to the other symptoms…"

Karen says the fentanyl patch has caused her a litany of problems, including injuries from falls. "I had to pay extra money in late fees, etc. because of incorrectly doing tax returns and not paying bills; I forgot what traffic signal colors meant and stopped when I shouldn't have: that caused damage to my car when another car rear-ended me…"

Karen says she is lucky that she discontinued fentanyl even before she found out about the Duragesic patch recall (defective patches have leaked fentanyl gel), "otherwise I might not be here today to tell my story." Others haven't been so fortunate.

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