TITUSVILLE, NJ: Johnson & Johnson has named Ernie Knewitz as regional communications leader for the Americas for subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Based in Titusville, New Jersey, Knewitz is reporting to Linda Fedow, global lead of pharmaceuticals communication and public affairs, he said. Knewitz is overseeing a team of 40 across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Globally, J&J pharma subsidiary Janssen has a communications team of about 110 staffers.

Knewitz started in the role on Monday, replacing Rebecca Tillet, who retired after working at J&J for 13 years. 

Prior, Knewitz was VP of global media relations at Johnson & Johnson and previously worked in Janssen’s research and development group as therapeutic area communications leader for cardiovascular and metabolism as part of his 16-year career at J&J. 

Knewitz said via email that much has changed in pharma since his earlier role at Janssen.

“I learned a lot there about how the expectations of one of our segments impacts the entire company,” he added. “Understanding that association, and just how important each product in our portfolio is, will help me transition to this leadership role.”

Johnson & Johnson is appealing an Oklahoma judge’s August ruling that ordered it to pay $465 million to the state to address the opioid crisis there. The original amount, $572 million, was reduced in November due to a mathematical error.

J&J has argued that Janssen “did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome.”

Asked about his work on opioid-related lawsuits against Janssen, Knewitz explained that Johnson & Johnson’s corporate media team has a designated leader for litigation communications. “In this role, we will partner with the corporate team, and of course legal, to ensure our position is reflected in the media’s coverage,” he said via email.

Johnson & Johnson’s Q3 revenue was up 1.9% year-over-year to more than $20.7 billion, driven by growth in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and optimization of its consumer business. However, net earnings dropped 55.4% to $1.75 billion. The company has spent $3.76 billion on litigation expenses.

Before joining Johnson & Johnson, Knewitz was a public information officer for the New York Academy of Sciences and an SVP at Noonan/Russo, where he co-led its media relations practice.

This article first appeared on prweek.com.