J&J Marketed Risperdal Popcorn?

J&J Marketed Risperdal Popcorn?

September 27th, 2012 // 2:19 pm @

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Did Johnson & Johnson sales reps try to butter up doctors and their office staffs with specially branded Risperdal popcorn as part of concerted effort to widen the market for the drug? A team of Johnson & Johnson lawyers is trying to convince a Pennsylvania state court jury today that the health care giant never attempted such a gambit as they defend charges that Risperdal caused a 17-year-old boy to grow breasts.

The argument over the popcorn is actually part of a wider and ongoing effort by J&J (JNJ) to deflect charges of illegal and inappropriate marketing of its antipsychotic. Already, though, J&J has agreed to pay $181 million to resolve claims by 36 states for promoting the Risperdal and Invega antipsychotics for unapproved uses (read here). And a $2.2 billion settlement is reportedly being negotiated with the US Department of Justice.

The recent deal came after J&J suffered setbacks in several states where off-label marketing charges went to court. In April, an Arkansas judge fined the health care giant $1 billion. Three months earlier, J&J agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Texas attorney general after only a few days of blistering courtroom testimony that placed its marketing practices in a harsh and unflattering light (see this).

The trial that got under way this week in the Philadelphia court room is one of more than 420 lawsuits to charge that the pill has caused gynecomastia – the abnormal development of large mammary glands in males – but that the product labeling lacked sufficient warnings. Earlier this month, the J&J settled what was to have been the first trial, although the terms were not disclosed (back story).

Andrew Bentley, who lives in Texas, claims he took Risperdal to treat conditions related to Asperger’s Syndrome at a time when the FDA had not approved the drug for use by children. His lawyers argue J&J illegally marketed Risperdal to rack up more than $1 billion in sales, according to Bloomberg News. Among the marketing efforts: paying physicians to give favorable speeches, subsidizing golf trips and delivering Risperdal popcorn.

“There were some discussions” about the instruction to market Risperdal to child psychiatrists and pediatricians since the government hadn’t given permission for such promotions, former J&J sales manager Tone Jones told jurors today, according to Bloomberg. “But it was a company directive, so we had to execute it flawlessly in the field.” For their part, J&J lawyers maintain no illegal marketing took place and questioned the validity of the pictures of popcorn bags.

The Risperdal popcorn was reported on this site more than five years ago (right here), along with Risperdal legos (which you can see here). J&J lawyers argued that the healthcare giant had nothing to do with the popcorn, although they have not offered an explanation as to how the popcorn came into existence. The implication? The popcorn was a contrived stunt. As for us, we stand by our earlier stories. There was, by the way, a ‘brand’ of Invega popcorn, as well, which you can see here.


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