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Arkansas AG Wants Risperdal Verdict Upheld

Jun 20, 2013

Arkansas’ attorney general wants to ensure that a decision compelling drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay a hefty fine for illegally marketing its antipsychotic drug Risperdal holds up after an appeal.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is drumming up support for the lower court’s decision. McDaniel is getting help from 35 of his colleagues in other states, all of whom hope the Arkansas Supreme Court upholds a county court ruling ordering J&J to pay a $1.2 billion fine for its illegal Risperdal marketing.

That decision was rendered in Pulaski County Court, which ordered J&J and its subsidiary company Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. to pay $5,000 for each prescription of Risperdal that Arkansas’ Medicaid program paid for. The order was handed down against the drug companies because the state successfully proved that the risks associated with the drug had been downplayed in the marketing effort, which encouraged more prescriptions to be written. In addition to the prescriptions, the hefty fine also includes a bill for each communication Janssen sent to Arkansas doctors that further downplayed the risks of the drug, according to AP.

In previous reports on the backlash now facing drug companies over the marketing of Risperdal, we noted that they were working with the federal government to reach an agreement on a fine. The companies had already rejected a $2.2 billion proposed fine.

The illegal marketing charges stemmed from accusations that Risperdal’s side effects were downplayed, and that the companies were promoting the drug for off-label use, according to our previous accounts. In one example, the owner of a nursing home chain, Omnicare Inc., bought into Janssen and J&J’s marketing and compelled its physicians to prescribe Risperdal for conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is not approved for those conditions, but the drug companies’ communications indicated that Risperdal was more effective than other medication; the drug companies even provided false clinical data to back that pitch.

According to our reports, when Risperdal is prescribed for the indications for which it was approved, it increases a person’s chance of suffering a stroke or developing diabetes. Moreover, no data suggests Risperdal is effective in off-label scenarios.

The lower court decision in Arkansas is not only being backed by other states’ attorneys general, but also by lawmakers and other attorneys in the state. If this decision is upheld by that state’s Supreme Court, it will likely open the door for other states to follow with lawsuits of their own for prescriptions their state’s Medicaid program paid for under false notions.

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