if this isn’t racketeering…

Posted on Wednesday 26 September 2012

Risperdal trial: Sales rep cites pressure from above
Philadelphia Inquirer
By David Sell
September 25, 2012

A former Janssen Pharmaceuticals sales representative who was promoted because of his success in selling the antipsychotic drug Risperdal told a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury Monday that he and his team followed orders from the top of the company in promoting the drug for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Janssen is a wholly owned subsidiary of health-care giant Johnson & Johnson, which has headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J., and divisions elsewhere in the region. "Janssen wanted Risperdal to be a $1 billion drug, and that led to how we would communicate with our customers," said Tone Jones, referring to doctors who would prescribe the drug to patients. Jones was a sales representative for Janssen and Risperdal…

Smith later told the jury that if any Janssen personnel had been found promoting drugs for unapproved uses, they would have been fired. That set up a direct contradiction when Jones took the stand. The plaintiff’s attorney, Bob Hilliard, in his opening statement, had shown a group photograph that included Jones and then-Janssen president Alex Gorsky, who is now chief executive officer of J&J. Hilliard asked Jones whether he knew of anybody who got fired for selling Risperdal off-label. "No," said Jones, who started four years at quarterback for Oklahoma State and then spent about 10 years working for Janssen. Did you get bonuses based on selling Risperdal off-label? Hilliard asked. "Yes," said Jones.

Earlier in the day, Hilliard and Philadelphia lawyers Stephen Sheller and Brian McCormick formally asked Judge Arnold New to reconsider his decision Thursday that Gorsky could not be compelled to testify. New gave no reason for his decision. Gorsky’s assistant had said in an affidavit that he would be in Asia. The boy’s attorneys said New was setting a terrible precedent because every corporate leader would suddenly find the need to be out of the country when subpoenaed by opposing counsel.

J&J Pushed Risperdal With Golf, Popcorn, Witness Says
Bloomberg News
By Jef Feeley and Margaret Cronin Fisk
September 25, 2012

During cross-examination, Jones acknowledged he was fired from Janssen in 2009 after approving more than $2,000 in expenses, including drinks and lap dances, racked up by a sales rep at a Houston strip club. He later sued Janssen over his dismissal, Jones said…

Smith, one of J&J’s lawyers, questioned whether Jones knew who authored the slide that talked about buttering up doctors with Risperdal Popcorn. “I remember seeing it at a meeting,” the former sales manager said. Jones added that he didn’t know who created the slide.

Smith produced a copy of the slide posted to Pharmalot.com, a blog that covers the health-care industry. The Internet site is produced by Ed Silverman, who formerly covered the pharmaceutical industry for the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper. J&J’s lawyer asked Jones whether the slide came from the Pharmalot site. The former sales manager said he’d only seen it as a Janssen document. Silverman denied in an interview today that he was the slide’s author, saying it was sent to him by an anonymous contributor. “I was the first to post the photo. Someone sent it to me,” he said. “There is no way I made this up”…

J&J Lawyers To Jury: What Risperdal Popcorn?
By Ed Silverman
September 25th, 2012

Did Johnson & Johnson sales reps try to butter up doctors and their office staffs with specially branded Risperdal popcorn as part of concerted effort to widen the market for the drug? A team of Johnson & Johnson lawyers is trying to convince a Pennsylvania state court jury today that the health care giant never attempted such a gambit as they defend charges that Risperdal caused a 17-year-old boy to grow breasts. The argument over the popcorn is actually part of a wider and ongoing effort by J&J [JNJ] to deflect charges of illegal and inappropriate marketing of its antipsychotic…

“There were some discussions” about the instruction to market Risperdal to child psychiatrists and pediatricians since the government hadn’t given permission for such promotions, former J&J sales manager Tone Jones told jurors today, according to Bloomberg. “But it was a company directive, so we had to execute it flawlessly in the field.” For their part, J&J lawyers maintain no illegal marketing took place and questioned the validity of the pictures of popcorn bags.

The Risperdal popcorn was reported on this site more than five years ago [right here], along with Risperdal legos [which you can see here]. J&J lawyers argued that the healthcare giant had nothing to do with the popcorn, although they have not offered an explanation as to how the popcorn came into existence. The implication? The popcorn was a contrived stunt. As for us, we stand by our earlier stories. There was, by the way, a ‘brand’ of Invega popcorn, as well, which you can see here

I haven’t spent much time in courtrooms, but I’ve been there enough to know that it’s not like it is on tv or in the movies. It’s tedious, slow, often boring. But attending the Texas TMAP trial, I kind of got into it. I was interested in the case, so the nuances weren’t so soporific. I think the lawyers for J&J in Texas were operating on a higher plane than these guys in Pennsylvania. This bunch said "that the company denied illegally marketing the drug," which is manifestly untrue. They’re suggesting that Ed Silverman [Pharmalot] might have made up the popcorn, even though his images are linked to the web site of someone who took the pictures [Nurse Ratched’s Place]. Meanwhile, the plaintiff’s attorney is still trying to subpoena J&J Tsar, Alex Gorsky. I had actually considered going to this trial too, but bailed out because I thought they would settle [strange, the hobbies retired old shrinks come up with]. I would still bet on a settlement if given the choice.

But the real reason for this post is that I realized something after my last piece – my hallowed Risperdal profits graph has been wrong all along. I had assumed Risperdal’s patent had run out in 2007 when their profits plummeted. That was incorrect. The Patent Exclusivity ran out on December 29, 2003:

So there was a three year window between their patent expiring and the introduction of a generic by Teva [shaded on the graphs]. During that period, J&J almost doubled their profit-to-date! Why didn’t somebody jump in with a generic in what was then such a lucrative market? for three years? I know that the companies have done all kind of legal sheenanigans to delay or block generics. Is that what Janssen did? At the end of 2003, their star was still on the rise. Did they do something to hold on to the inertia until 2007? They were still in the game with augmentation, Biederman’s paper, etc. It was as if they knew they still had time. I don’t know, but it sure bears looking in to. Another black mark by J&J’s name. And I guess I thought of Gorsky’s leaving for a European sojourn in 2003 as payback, but now I’m wondering if he was on the lam. 

The other thing I recurrently wonder is why this J&J behavior doesn’t qualify for RICO [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act]. I try to read about it, and get lost in the legalese. But if this isn’t racketeering, I don’t know what is…

Update: re Popcorn see this [linked by Soulful Sepulcher]…
    September 26, 2012 | 3:11 PM

    I applaud your blog!

    Risperdal ‘butter up docs’ and ‘viva zyprexa’.

    Risperdal reproached!
    To an ordinary person,it is stunning that professional clinicians would exhibit such carnival behavior.
    I was in the building trades and the perk for us were carpenters pencils.All the atypical anti psychotic drug reps engaged in pushy promotions.Eli Lilly called their off-label slogan ‘viva zyprexa’ ‘5 at 5’,meaning 5 mgs at 5 pm would keep elderly nursing home patients subdued.
    Eli Lilly paid billions in fines and damages. J and J is getting no slack for their association with family care products.

    -Daniel Haszard FMI http://www.zyprexa-victims.com

    September 27, 2012 | 11:03 AM

    Thanks Mickey! incredible isn’t it!?

    September 27, 2012 | 10:29 PM

    Popcorn is a popular snack among office workers. Risperdal and Invega popcorn are pretty darn clever subliminal messages from drug reps.

    September 30, 2012 | 11:13 PM

    None of this would be taking place without the help of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the drugmakers’ partner in crime.

    Lobbying each of the states, pushing these drugs at the State level – in foster care, Medicaid, juvenile justice, all “off label.” –


    If NAMI doesn’t qualify for RICO, I don’t know who does!
    Friends don’t let friends join NAMI.


    September 30, 2012 | 11:17 PM

    Re: “Off label”

    Risperdal is FDA-approved for children… the problem is that it never should have been… and the other drugs are pushed by NAMI at the State level (off-label), like candy!


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