Pushing for profit: The rise and fall of Risperdal

On behalf of Dennis Reich at Reich & Binstock LLP

Johnson and Johnson is being sued after pushing the use of Risperdal in an unlawful marketing scheme. The company must now pay billions in penalties.

Risperdal is an antipsychotic drug that affects chemicals in the brain. Generally, the medication is used to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder. Following the drug's arrival into the pharmaceutical world, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), through the subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, extended the use of Risperdal to various types of mental health and behavioral conditions.

In many instances, the drug was used for medical issues without being thoroughly tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, the U.S. Department of Justice asserts that J&J illegally promoted the drug to consumers between 1993 and 2004. Allegations have landed J&J in legal brush with consumer protection regulators in over 35 states. As a result, J&J will have to pay billions of dollars in criminal and civil penalties related to its unlawful marketing practices.

If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by Risperdal, speak with a drug injury lawyer about your experience. You may be one of the many victims entitled to compensation.

The push for Risperdal

In order to understand the recent legal allegations, it is helpful to uncover the history and context behind J&J's lengthy marketing scheme.

It all began when the patent life of J&J's former antipsychotic medicine ended. Sales began to plummet for the company as generics took over the market. In an effort to regain traction, J&J released Risperdal in 1994 as a successor, but the FDA noted that the medication was not as strong as previous forms of the drug. Largely, the new medication was most effective for schizophrenia in adults, but for Johnson & Johnson, that was not enough.

J&J decided to reinvent Risperdal as a drug for a broad range of medical concerns. The company aggressively targeted everyone from autistic children to seniors with dementia. Yet, J&J wanted more.

Next, J&J paid doctors and other medical professionals to advocate the treatment of certain conditions with the Risperdal. With time, Johnson & Johnson developed an agreement with Omnicare, a company that provided pharmaceutical care and services in nursing homes. The arrangement ensured that treating physicians would prescribe Risperdal, and the profits would be shared with Omnicare.

Though the medication was never officially approved for the elderly, J&J subsequently formed a sales campaign wherein over 100 marketers pushed the medicine on seniors. During this time, many older individuals who consumed the medication passed away.

While this was going on, J&J continued to extend the use of the drug to children. The company encouraged pediatricians to prescribe Risperdal. In 2000, more than 20 percent of Risperdal was distributed to children and adolescents, according to The New York Times.

Risperdal and gynecomastia in young boys

The New York Times notes that an internal J&J study discovered that Risperdal led approximately 5.5 percent of boys to develop a condition known as gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is swelling or enlargement of the breast tissue in boys or men, caused by an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone.

Males who consumed the prescription drug not only accumulated fat in chest tissues, but also developed excess glandular tissue. For some Risperdal users, this caused a great deal of emotional and psychological damage. Though J&J had knowledge of such side effects, the information was not made readily available to the public.

Today, Johnson & Johnson must compensate many individuals affected by Risperdal for its aggressive and dishonest market strategy. To uncover more about this legal matter and your specific recovery options regarding Risperdal, speak with an attorney.

Keywords: Risperdal, injury, liability