J&J is targeted in new articles

screenshot_301SUMMARY: The Huffington Post Highline and journalist Steven Brill today began publishing “America’s Most Admired Law Breaker,” a 15-part series detailing how Johnson & Johnson took an anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal, initially intended only for the treatment of psychotic disorders, and put it in the hands of children and the elderly in violation of FDA restrictions.

In his richly-detailed narrative, Brill recounts how Johnson & Johnson set ambitious revenue targets in its internal business plans that required reaching a market far broader than the narrow population of adults with the most severe psychiatric disorders that the FDA had told J&J it could promote to.

Despite these FDA restrictions – and repeated warnings from the FDA that Brill documents – the company promoted the drug to doctors treating the elderly as a solution for a broad range of less severe behavioral issues, including restlessness and dementia. The aggressive marketing efforts continued even as data from clinical studies continued to make it more obvious that the drug caused strokes and other dangerous side effects.


Similarly, even after the company executives received data indicating that the drug was causing young boys to grow large breasts, Johnson & Johnson continued to promote Risperdal for the treatment of child behavioral problems, such as ADHD and ADD, by paying doctors to tout its benefits.

Among other findings:
During one peak sales year, Risperdal accounted for 14% of all of Johnson & Johnson’s profit.
Johnson & Johnson used Legos and a “back to school” campaign to promote Risperdal, despite FDA regulations not allowing the company to market it to children. Similarly, it created an ElderCare team for Risperdal, even though the FDA wouldn’t allow the company to market it to the elderly. Under federal law, violation of these FDA restrictions is a crime.
The company tweaked or disregarded several studies showing how dangerous the drug was for children and the elderly.
J&J paid hundreds of doctors to ensure that Risperdal got a good name in the medical community. Some of those doctors put their names on an article published in a prestigious medical journal reports that included faulty science about the drug’s safety. One of those doctor-authors now concedes to Brill that his involvement in the article “was the most difficult thing in my career.”
No single drug is U.S. history has incurred larger criminal fines and civil damages payments for illegal marketing than Risperdal. Nonetheless, Brill calculates that J&J stands to make billions on the drug, giving lie to the idea that our system serves as a deterrent to bad behavior.


Mr Brill has never been a fan of anything on healthcare, but his report is alarming in a lot of ways.  I continue to believe that anyone caught and convicted of illegal marketing should be fired and prohibited from working in pharma but the key lesson here seems to be sales before patients.

J&J, in research, is one of America’s most trusted companies but whether this will damage that reputation is up for debate.  The Huffington Post leans far to the left when most people are centrists.