Lawsuits brought by the Kentucky state attorney general over the painkiller OxyContin and the antipsychotic Risperdal have reached a combined settlement of $39.5 million, Law360 reports. After nine years of litigation, Purdue Pharma LP has agreed to pay $24 million and Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle allegations that the companies failed to warn about the risks of the drugs, thereby defrauding the state’s Medicaid program.
“These companies engaged in reckless behavior that put our citizens at risk,” said Attorney General Jack Conway, according to Law360. “Both companies knowingly and aggressively marketed drugs they knew to be harmful in order to drive profits. I am pleased we were able to recover damages for the commonwealth and recover funds to help expand addiction treatment in Kentucky.” The companies settled the cases without admitting wrongdoing.
According to the attorney general’s office, both lawsuits were filed in state court in 2007. The state accused Purdue of intentionally downplaying the addictiveness of Oxycontin. As a result, the state alleged, doctors prescribed the drug more often than necessary and Medicaid covered these costs.
The lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit alleged the company marketed Risperdal off-label for children. Off-label use means that a drug is being used in a manner not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Physicians can prescribe drugs off-label but drug makers are not allowed to promote their drugs for unapproved uses. The state alleged that Janssen promoted Risperdal for children before the FDA approved it for this use in 2007. Janssen allegedly failed to warn about the risk of hormonal imbalance and infertility. Additionally, the company is accused of marketed Risperdal off-label in elderly patients with dementia even though this could lead to life-threatening side effects. Janssen agreed to not promote Risperdal for unapproved uses in Kentucky and to clearly disclose the risks.