Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Conway gets $24 million from Purdue Pharma to settle Oxycontin claim, $15.5 million from J & J subsidiary in Risperdal case

Purdue Pharma will pay the state $24 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the drug maker "illegally misrepresented and/or concealed the highly addictive nature of OxyContin and encouraged doctors who weren’t trained in pain management to overprescribe the opioid pain reliever to Kentucky patients," Attorney General Jack Conway announced Dec. 23.

The company did not admit liability, but Conway said, “Purdue Pharma created havoc in Kentucky, and I am glad it will be held accountable. Purdue lit a fire of addiction with OxyContin that spread across this state, and Kentucky is still reeling from its effects.” Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader notes, "Abuse of OxyContin snowballed in Eastern Kentucky beginning in the late 1990s, driving up overdose deaths."
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In 2007, Purdue Pharma and three of its executives pleaded guilty to federal charges in Virginia that they had made misleading claims about OxyContin's potential for addiction. "A judge ordered the company to pay more than $630 million in that case," Estep notes. "The same year, 49 states settled their own claims against the company. Kentucky was the lone holdout. That was because the company offered the state only $500,000, Conway said."

Pike County joined then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo's lawsuit seeking an unspecified amount of damages, and reportedly settled in 2013 for $4 million. The case had been delayed after Purdue Pharma got it moved to federal court, where a judge sent it back to Pike Circuit Court.

Circuit Judge Steve Combs ruled the company had missed a deadline to deny allegations in the suit, meaning it had admitted the claims by default, "giving the state a huge advantage in the case," Estep writes. "The company appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which has not ruled. The company will drop the appeal as part of the settlement."

The settlement calls for Purdue Pharma to make an initial payment of $12 million and eight annual payments of $1.5 million each, with the money after payment of legal fees to be used "to expand addiction treatment in Kentucky," Conway's news release said.

Conway, who was defeated in the November election for governor, is leaving office after the maximum two four-year terms.

Risperdal settlement

Concurrently, Conway announced that Janssen Pharmaceuticals will pay the state $15.5 million to settle a claim that the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary misled consumers about its dangers and marketed the drug for purposes other than those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Janssen marketed Risperdal to children before it was approved to do so in 2007 by the FDA," the release said. "It failed to disclose to parents, physicians and patients that Risperdal may cause a hormonal imbalance, which could cause breast tissue development and infertility in both boys and girls. Janssen was aware of the risk and did not update the drug’s warning label because it felt awareness of the risks could cost the company up to $150 million per year.

"Janssen also marketed Risperdal for a non-FDA approved use in treating dementia in non-schizophrenic elderly patients. It even created an elder-care sales force, despite having its own study that showed Risperdal doubled the risk of death in the elderly. Risperdal’s label did not disclose this risk to the public until 2003, even though a Janssen-funded trial indicated the risk in 1997. In 2013, Janssen pleaded guilty to federal charges of misbranding the drug regarding the promotions to the elderly.

"Additionally, Janssen marketed Risperdal as an atypical anti-psychotic with low weight gain and diabetes risk. However, its internal studies indicated that after one year, patients on Risperdal had as much weight gain as its main competitor and a greater risk of diabetes."

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