Johnson & Johnson increased sales of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal by paying doctors to speak about the drug, paying for their golf trips and providing bags of "Risperdal Popcorn," a former sales manager testified on the second day of a trial in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Bloomberg News reported (link here) that Tone Jones, a former Oklahoma State quarterback, was on the stand for a second day and spoke of the inducements to doctors for prescribing the drug to children from 1998 through 2006, even though the FDA had not approved the drug for use in children during that period.
J&J faces hundreds of individual lawsuits alleging harm to patients, but it also faces - or has paid to settle - multiple state and federal cases involving inappropriate promotion of Risperdal. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is the wholly-owned subsidiary that makes Risperdal.
The drug was approved in 1993, but only to treat adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which have small populations, and that makes generating huge profits difficult. Doctors can legally prescribe anything, but drug companies can't promote a drug for anything not on the official FDA-approved label. The common allegation across all the suits is that Janssen did just that.
Janssen and J&J deny the allegations.
In this trial, the jury will decide whether J&J owes money to the family of a 17-year-old boy from Texas who was prescribed the drug when he was 5 and started growing breasts at age 12. Judge Mark Bernstein told the jury on Monday he expected the case to last about three weeks.
J&J attorney Laura Smith had her first chance to cross examine Jones on Tuesday. Bloomberg's story says Jones acknowledged that he was fired in 2009 by J&J after approving an expense account that included $2,000 worth of drinks and lap dances at a Houston strip joint. Jones said he sued J&J. He also said he now works for pharmaceutical competitor Sanofi-aventis.
Smith also reportedly raised the issue of whether a business plan document that Jones spoke of and the plaintiff's attorney are using was genuine. She asked if it did not first appear on the blog Pharmalot, which covers the pharmaceutical business and is produced by former Newark Star Ledger reporter Ed Silverman. Jones said he only saw the document in a business meeting.
In an interview with Bloomberg and on his blog (link here), Silverman denied any suggestion he fabricated the photo of the document.
"Someone sent it to me," Silverman said, according to Bloomberg. "There is no way I made this up."