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J&J Units Must Pay $16.6 Million for Fentanyl Death

Two units of Johnson & Johnson must pay $16.6 million to the family of a Chicago-area woman who died after using a Duragesic pain-patch, a state jury found, dealing the company its fourth defeat in as many trials since 2006.

The woman aged 38, died in February 2004 because the patch she was wearing delivered a fatal dose of the narcotic fentanyl, the device’s main ingredient.

The Duragesic-brand patch is made by Alza Corp., a Mountain View, California, company owned by New Brunswick, New Jersey- based Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest maker of medical devices. The product was distributed by another Johnson & Johnson unit, Janssen Pharmaceutica. The jury deliberated for less than two days.

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Fentanyl is a painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine, plaintiffs’ lawyers said at trial. The patches, prescribed for people combating chronic pain, are to be worn for 72 hours and then discarded.

Johnson & Johnson in July 2007 agreed to pay the family of a Florida man $2.5 million to resolve claims; he died after using one of the patches. A jury had awarded the plaintiffs $5.5 million one month earlier.

In July 2006, a state court jury in Houston ordered Janssen and Alza in July to pay $772,500 to the family of a Texas woman who died after her patch leaked. The companies appealed that verdict.

The case is DiCosolo v. Janssen Pharmaceutica, 04L5351, Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Law Division (Chicago).

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