Doing the math on Risperdal
Johnson & Johnson has come under fire recently for sundry illegal marketing practices related to the antipsychotic drug Risperdal (as enumerated here and here in legal documents, and here by a former J&J salesperson). “Recently” isn’t entirely accurate… considering that they were warned in 1994, 1999, and 2004 by the FDA to stop making “false and misleading claims” about Risperdal’s efficacy and superiority to other atypical antipsychotics, this has been a long time coming.
So let’s do the math. How much money will J&J have to pay for the privilege of doing whatever they damn well please in marketing Risperdal, a brain-damaging, diabetes-, obesity-, akathisia-, homicidal/suicidal ideation-causing, so-called “safe” antipsychotic?
$1 billion to the US and some states who have joined in the federal (civil) case against Risperdal
$257.7 million to the state of Louisiana in 2010
$327 million to South Carolina in 2011
$158 million to Texas in a settlement agreed upon last Thursday
$400 million more as a penalty for violating the “Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act”
TOTAL: $2.14 billion (more or less) in fines for illegal marketing practices
That would make Risperdal the most heavily fined of any single drug ever produced by pharma (incidentally, another atypical antipsychotic medication, Lilly’s Zyprexa, comes in a rather distant second at $1.4 billion).
Let’s do a little more math
What percentage of J&J’s total Risperdal profits does this fine represent? In other words, if J&J were to design a business model with fines for off-label marketing built right in, how much money would they have to set aside?
$2.14 billion in fines for illegal marketing practices
$34 billion in worldwide sales from 1994 to 2010*
TOTAL: fines are 6.3% of profits
Not too shabby. It becomes a mere line item in the marketing budget, simply a “cost of doing business.”
Never mind the human cost.
The human cost
Since they’re not going to, let’s you and I spend a moment considering the human cost.
Meet Ke’onte Cook, a 12-year-old survivor of the foster system who was wrongfully medicated with antipsychotics.
As you may recall, in November of 2011 an important study published in the journal Pediatrics found that youth in foster homes with behavioral problems were being wrongfully prescribed antipsychotics as a chemical means to ensure docility. On average they were being prescribed these drugs at twice the rate of children outside the foster system. More on that here.
The foster system population is one of the specific groups that J&J is accused of targeting with their off-label marketing practices.