J&J in advertising hot water again

J&J in advertising hot water again

Steve’s breakdown: There’s a big debate in the advertising community about whether a pharma account is worth the trouble. On one hand, it’s big money – on the other, just look at Digitas Health . . .

Your call but J&J has got some problems to take care of and you might as well take the money.

TITUSVILLE, NJ: A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary has agreed to pay $181 million to 36 states, including New Jersey, to settle lawsuits alleging it marketed its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal to treat illnesses that weren’t approved by the government, New Jersey officials said Thursday.

New Jersey will receive more than $5.3 million as part of the settlement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., the state said.

“This settlement is important to protecting New Jersey consumers because it calls for patients and health-care providers to have access to clearer and more objective information about the drugs at issue,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said in a prepared statement. “It also requires that scientifically trained professionals — not people whose expertise is marketing and sales — take the lead in generating that information.”

Hopewell Township-based Janssen makes pharmaceutical drugs, including Risperdal, a blockbuster that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia and biopolar disorder. Doctors can prescribe drugs to their patients as they wish, but drug companies aren’t allowed to market their products for uses other than those allowed by the FDA.

J&J and other companies have been under fire from federal and state governments for their marketing strategies to sell a new generation of anti-psychotic drugs, mainly because much of the revenue came from taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.

In the case of Johnson & Johnson, that drug was Risperdal, which generated upward of $25 billion before its patent expired in 2007, according to court records.

The Asbury Park Press in a series about Johnson & Johnson’s troubles last November wrote about lawsuits filed nationwide that alleged Janssen crossed the line through a marketing strategy for Risperdal that included:

• Helping to devise a computer program that would recommend that doctors use new, more expensive anti-psychotic drugs.

• “Ghostwriting” medical journal articles that touted the drug for patients with dementia.

• Paying a nursing home pharmacy manager to prescribe Risperdal to its patients.

Studies funded by the government eventually showed the new anti-psychotic drugs weren’t more effective than the older, less expensive versions.

J&J has had a mixed record fighting lawsuits about Risperdal that have gone to trial. Most recently, an Arkansas judge ordered the company to pay the state $1.2 billion for defrauding the state’s Medicaid program through deceptive marketing practices. The company has appealed the verdict.

It also has said it reached an agreement in principle with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle three civil lawsuits that include the sales and marketing of Risperdal, but the agreement hasn’t been finalized. Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News Service have reported the settlement could be for more than $2 billion.

On Thursday, the states said they settled a lawsuit alleging Janssen promoted Risperdal for both seniors and children and targeted patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression and anxiety — even though it didn’t establish the drug as safe and effective for those illnesses.

In addition to what the states said was a record payout, Janssen agreed for the next five years to more clearly disclose the risks related to anti-psychotic drugs and to ensure questions from health care providers are answered by scientifically trained employees instead of sales and marketing employees.

Janssen officials said the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing.

“We have chosen this path to achieve a prompt and full resolution of these state claims and to ensure we continue to focus on our mission of providing medicines to meet the significant unmet needs of many people who suffer from mental illness,” Janssen President Michael Yang said.


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