SAN DIEGO (AP) – A San Diego judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay nearly $344 million in penalties for deceptively marketing pelvic mesh devices for women.
Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled Thursday against the medical giant in a lawsuit brought by the California Department of Justice in 2016. The California attorney general’s office said it was the first time a court has ruled that the company engaged in false and deceptive business practices. “Johnson & Johnson knew the danger of its mesh products but put profits ahead of the health of millions of women,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
A voicemail message seeking comment from New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson was left for a spokesperson Thursday afternoon. J&J is dealing with thousands of lawsuits over drug side effects, its role in the U.S. opioid epidemic, allegations its baby powder caused cancer in some users and its surgical mesh for sagging pelvic organs injured patients. Last week, Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest maker of health care products, reported net income of $4.01 billion, or $1.50 per share an increase from $3.04 billion a year earlier.
Higher prescription drug sales and lower legal costs drove its fourth-quarter profit 32% higher. After the most recent earnings report, Erik Gordon, a professor and pharmaceuticals analyst at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, commented on the legal issues in an email to The Associated Press.
“A big question hanging over the company is how many billions of dollars it may have to pay as a result of the wave of products liability lawsuits it faces,” he wrote.