After years of bickering, Kentucky has settled separate lawsuits that accused different drug makers – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Purdue Pharma — of misleading consumers about their risks of two widely prescribed medicines. All totaled, the state settled the two claims for nearly $40 million.
“These companies engaged in reckless behavior that put our citizens at risk,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said in a statement. “Both companies knowingly and aggressively marketed drugs they knew to be harmful in order to drive profits.”
In one case, the state alleged Purdue illegally concealed that OxyContin is highly addictive while encouraging physicians — who were not trained in pain management — to overprescribe the pain reliever. The state claims the company caused some citizens to become addicts and, as a result, state programs paid for some prescriptions inappropriately.
Purdue agreed to settle the lawsuit for $24 million, according to the settlement document. The state filed its lawsuit in 2007, shortly after Purdue and several former executives pleaded guilty in a federal court in Virginia for illegally marketing OxyContin. At the time, Purdue resolved claims by 49 other states and offered to settle with Kentucky for $500,000, according to Conway.
Purdue did not admit to any liability. “For more than a decade we’ve implemented industry-leading programs to reduce the abuse and overuse of prescription opioids, including our 2010 reformulation of OxyContin with abuse-deterrent properties,” said Philip Strassburger, Purdue’s general counsel, in a statement.
Purdue is also fighting similar lawsuits filed last year by Chicago and two California counties, which charged the drug maker with deceptively marketing OxyContin and making false claims about the opioid painkiller. Chicago officials recently revised their lawsuit with what they alleged is additional evidence, while the lawsuits in California have been delayed indefinitely.
Separately, J&J agreed to pay $15.5 million to Kentucky to settle allegations that it failed to warn about several risks associated with its Risperdal antipsychotic. These included the possibility that young boys on the drug could develop breasts, a condition called gynecomastia. Last week, J&J lost a trial in which a young man claimed he grew breasts after taking the drug. The company has now lost all four trials in which such claims were made.
The Kentucky lawsuit also alleged that the health care giant failed to disclose that Ripserdal could cause patients to gain weight and develop diabetes. Kentucky further accused J&J of marketing the drug for treating dementia in nursing home patients, a use that was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
This is only the latest in a long line of settlements that J&J has made with the federal government and various state governments over allegations of illegally promoting Risperdal or not disclosing worrisome side effects. In all, the health care giant has paid about $2.2 billion in penalties and settlements to resolve investigations involving government allegations.
A spokeswoman from J&J said in an email that “Risperdal has helped and is still helping millions of patients” and that the settlement allows the company to focus on patients.