Witness: J&J memo urged off-label Risperdal push

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Texas officials unveiled an internal Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) memo in court yesterday as attorneys seek to prove the company's Risperdal marketing overstepped its bounds, cheating the state out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The memo urged sales reps to promote the antipsychotic drug for use in kids with attention-deficit disorder as part of a back-to-school push for increased sales, Bloomberg reports.

The problem is that Risperdal was not approved for use in kids at the time. The FDA didn't bless Risperdal for pediatric use until 2006. Nevertheless, former Janssen sales manager Shane Scott testified he received the memo calling for stepped-up Risperdal marketing in the summer of 2004. "When kids are back in school, they are more likely to take their ADD meds," Scott said (as quoted by Bloomberg).

The state's attorneys are asking for at least $579 million in damages from J&J and its Janssen unit. That would be the largest damages award from any state so far; a Lousiana jury awarded $257.7 million to the state in a similar case, while a South Carolina jury found J&J liable for $327 million in damages.

The Texas trial comes at a time when J&J is negotiating a settlement with other states and the U.S. Justice Department, which has been probing the company's Risperdal marketing practices for years. The company reportedly has agreed to one misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and faces civil and criminal payments of around $1 billion.

- read the Bloomberg coverage

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