Open Medicine EU

Now Risperdal in the dock

When you start writing about atypical anti-psychotics it’s hard to stop.

In earlier posts I wrote about Seroquel and Zyprexa. Now, according to an article in Bloomberg news (and other media) Risperdal is the latest anti-psychotic to fall foul of the law, and not for the first time in this case.

On March 24th a South Carolina jury found that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, had engaged in “unfair and deceptive” marketing of Risperdal. The trouble arose from a package insert and a “Dear Healthgiver” letter the company circulated in November 2003, which was judged to have deceptively downplayed the risks of taking Risperdal, particularly in relation to diabetes. (The FDA had earlier condemned the letter.)

Damages will be decided in a later hearing but could theoretically include $5000 for each copy of the letter that was circulated.

A Louisiana jury also found against the company last October in relation to the letter and awarded nearly $260 million to the state. An appeal can be expected in this and in the South Carolina case.

In West Virginia, the company successfully appealed against an earlier court decision in that state. In a trial in Pennsylvania in June, the case against the company was dismissed by the judge at the end of the state’s case (non-suit, meaning that the state had not made out a case for the company to answer.)

There are a number of lawsuits pending in other states.

Atypical anti-psychotics have had a chequered history, but have been very profitable for their sponsors – a point to which Iwill return.

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