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M. Brandon Smith
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Johnson and Johnson Subsidiary to Pay $5.9M to Settle Risperdal Claim

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A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary recently agreed to pay $5.9 million to resolve a suit brought to the company by Tim Fox, Montana’s attorney general. Fox claimed that the drug company promoted the antipsychotic drug Risperdal as safe despite knowing it may incite serious health problems including diabetes. Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. agreed to the settlement without admitting to any wrongdoing, as part of a deal that prevents it from misleading consumers about its drugs in the future, according to a statement by the Montana attorney’s office.

Risperdal, the trade name of the drug risperidone, is used to treat schizophrenia as well as certain symptoms of bipolar disorder and autism. It’s been involved with a number of lawsuits aside from this latest one. In 2012, Johnson & Johnson settled a lawsuit claiming that Risperdal caused hundreds of male patients to grow breast tissue and another claiming that it had promoted risperidone for non-approved uses including dementia, anger management and anxiety. In 2013, Johnson and Johnson settled out of court for $2.2 billion in response to allegations that they encouraged overmedication of children, elderly and mentally disabled people.

In November Johnson & Johnson admitted to criminal misconduct and paid billions to resolve the allegations that it showered doctors with kickbacks and illegally promoted off-label uses of three separate drugs, Risperdal included. In that settlement, Janssen Pharmaceuticals agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of misbranding for improperly encouraging prescribers to treat dementia with Risperdal, even though it was approved only to address schizophrenia.

Fox brought this particular suit to J&J in 2008. Now, the settlement funds will be divided among courts, hospitals and the state’s newly formed awareness groups. Roughly $1.5 million of the settlement funds will go towards a new program in the state to prevent prescription drug abuse, while another $1.5 million will go towards funding mental health services and programs in Montana, according to the statement.

“This settlement is not only significant in terms of the amount of money Montana will receive, but also in that it protects our citizens from being prescribed Risperdal based on the types of false statements Janssen previously made to our health care providers,” the attorney general stated.