AUSTIN, Texas — The State of Texas is taking on one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. State Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a Medicaid fraud lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.

The state claims the company told pharmaceutical sales reps to lie to doctors about the dangers of an opioid patch containing fentanyl, called Duragesic.

As a result, the state says Johnson & Johnson got reimbursements from the state while fueling the opioid epidemic.

Last month a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million, saying it fueled the opioid crisis. But the company plans to appeal that ruling.

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Millions of Americans suffer from pain and are often prescribed opioids to treat their conditions. But the misuse of prescriptions, opioid addiction and overdoses have posed serious problems in the U.S. since the 1990s. From 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2017 than in 1999.

RELATED: Oklahoma judge rules against drugmaker, orders $572M payment

But the former chief medical officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Vanila Singh, says the stigma surrounding recovering from drug use stops a lot of people from getting help.

“Folks themselves feel bad,” she said. “They don't necessarily seek out care, or they feel like they have let someone down. Sometimes they feel judged by their family or the community around or feel weak.”

RELATED: In response to opioid crisis, Texas veterans push for medical marijuana

The Department of Health and Human Services says as the amount of opioid prescriptions has increased the amount of pain that Americans report has not changed.


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