Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay a settlement of more than $2.2 billion connected to “accusations that it improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to older adults,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. This resolution actually represents the third-largest pharmaceutical settlement in our country, and it’s one of the largest agreements in “a string of recent cases involving the marketing of antipsychotic and antiseizure drugs to older dementia patients.” The federal government is working to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are held liable for bad drugs and bad marketing.
This news is only the latest in many reports concerning elderly dementia patients and the varied problems of antipsychotic drugs. Indeed, the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services have been working to reduce the “off-label” use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state. Experienced California elder justice advocates have been handling cases involving the use of antipsychotic medications, and the dedicated lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can discuss your claim with you today.
What is Risperdal?
The $2.2 billion settlement involves claims associated with Johnson & Johnson’s marketing of Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs, in particular the promotion of “off-label” use of these drugs and “payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider,” according to the new release from the Department of Justice. Some of the bad marketing extended to the use of antipsychotic medications for dementia patients. Other drugs involved in the settlement include Invega and Natrecor. But what are these drugs, and how have they been dangerous to elderly consumers?
Risperdal is a brand name for the drug risperidone, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it’s a drug that’s typically used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar mania, and autism. Invega is also an atypical antipsychotic drug that’s a brand name for paliperidone. As you might have heard, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have been reported to make “off-label” use of these medications for treating elderly patients with dementia. When a drug is used “off-label,” it simply means that it’s being used for a different purpose than what the FDA has approved. When antipsychotic medications are used to treat dementia patients, the drugs can have serious side effects. Moreover, they’re often not the best first course for treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. In short, there are other methods for managing the behavior of older adults with dementia, and most commentators agree that antipsychotic drugs aren’t the answer.
Details of the Johnson & Johnson Settlement
According to the language of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson’s illegal off-label marketing of antipsychotic medications began in 1999 and extended through 2005. Eric H. Holder Jr., the United States attorney general, emphasized that Johnson & Johnson’s bad drug-promotion practices “recklessly put at risk the health of some of the most vulnerable members of our society—including young children, the elderly and the disabled.” In fact, many commentators believe the off-label use of antipsychotic medications to treat dementia patients constitutes nursing home abuse.
Under the terms of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson will also enter a guilty plea for a criminal misdemeanor, admitting that it “improperly marketed Risperdal to older adults for unapproved uses.” According to federal officials, Johnson & Johnson “actively pursued the market for geriatric patients” even when Risperdal wasn’t approved for such a use.