Like a game of whack-a-mole, no matter how many times Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) attempts to put to rest lawsuits over the marketing of its Risperdal antipsychotic, another claim pops up. The latest is a lawsuit filed this week by the Kentucky attorney general, who like others before him in federal and state governments, charge the health care giant with illegally promoting the widely prescribed pill.
The charges are familiar: J&J is accused of hiding and minimizing side effect data about diabetes and weight gain, and concealing evidence that Risperdal causes increased levels in children of a hormone that stimulates breast development and milk production. Last fall, J&J began settling lawsuits charging the pill causes gynecomastia, which is the abnormal development of large mammary glands in males.
Risperdal brought in sales of $335 million in the first quarter, down 7% from a year ago. Overall, pharmaceutical sales at J&J rose 10.4% in the first quarter to about $6.8 billion, a better performance than that of several big drug companies experiencing revenue declines due to patent expirations and the failure to develop new drugs.
In the scheme of things, this is just one more lawsuit that, as noted, covers familiar ground, but underscores the extent to which Risperdal marketing practices continue to haunt the health care giant, which is struggling to overcome the negative impression caused by manufacturing gaffes that led to countless product recalls and a scandal over the safety of its hip replacement devices.
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Ed Silverman, a contributing editor of YCharts, is the founder and editor of Pharmalot. He previously reported on the pharmaceutical industry and other business topics for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, New York Newsday and Investor’s Business Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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