Johnson & Johnson made huge profits by aggressively marketing its billion-dollar antipsychotic drug Risperdal to children and the elderly while allegedly manipulating data about male breast development, according to Steven Brill’s devastating 58,000-word “DocuSerial” published in the Huffington Post.
Free Risperdal Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or someone you know suffered from gynecomastia or other side effects of Risperdal use, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the manufacturer and our lawyers can help.
What’s the problem?
The story begins when the patent expired on J&J’s first antipsychotic drug, Haldol, sending the company’s sales plummeting as generics flooded the market. J&J released Risperdal (generic: risperidone) as a successor in 1994, with the FDA warning that it wasn’t necessarily better than the earlier drug and was primarily effective for treating schizophrenia in adults. But the company had its sights set on wider uses and bigger profits – It wanted a blockbuster with annual revenues of at least $1 billion.
So J&J reinvented Risperdal as a cure-all for everything from seniors with dementia to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The company also paid doctors handsome consulting fees and successfully lobbied to have Risperdal adopted as Texas’ first-line antipsychotic over generics. This meant the state paid $3,000 per year for each Medicaid patient using it, rather than $250 for each, according to Brill.
J&J then reached out to Omnicare, a company that provides pharmacy-related services to nursing homes and other long-term healthcare facilities. The companies arranged to have Omnicare doctors prescribe Risperdal, then J&J would kick back a portion of the profits to Omnicare.
Even though the FDA had never approved Risperdal to treat the elderly, J&J formed a 136-person sales force called “ElderCare” to promote the drug to seniors. FDA protested the move, claiming there were “an excess number of deaths” in elderly patients who took Risperdal.
This seems to have mattered little to J&J, according to Brill; the company was reaping massive profits and the FDA was essentially powerless to stop it.
Then J&J set its sights on another forbidden market – children. Company sales reps began heavily promoting Risperdal to pediatricians, so that by 2000, over 20% of the drug produced was being prescribed to minors.
In 2003, J&J held a “back to school” Risperdal marketing campaign for which company employees discussed including “lollipops and small toys” in sample packs, according to Brill.
All of these tactics proved wonderfully successful, and by 2004 Risperdal was generating $3 billion annually. However, one small obstacle stood in the way of the drug’s progress – a J&J-funded study which found that 5.5% of boys who took Risperdal developed abnormal breast tissue growth, or gynecomastia. But according to internal documents quoted by Brill, the company buried this information and hid it from the public.
Brill concedes that Risperdal is a beneficial medication that helps many patients; however, he believes the drug was marketed too broadly and the system failed to protect consumers.
In the end, J&J may pay more than $6 billion to resolve litigation surrounding Risperdal, according to Brill. But he estimates the company profited $18 billion off the drug in the U.S. alone (plus an estimated $10 billion in sales abroad).
Do I Have a Risperdal Lawsuit?
The Product Liability & Defective Drug Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Risperdal lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new gynecomastia cases in all 50 states.
Free Confidential Case Evaluation: Again, if you developed male breast growth or other injury after using Risperdal, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.