The state Attorney General, Mike McGrath, filed a lawsuit in state court claiming that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen unit for making and marketing antipsychotic meds that are “in defective condition and unreasonably dangerous,”The Helena Independent Record reports. He's referring, of course, to Seroquel and Risperdal.
McGrath charged the drugmakers “have engaged in false and misleading marketing, advertising and sales campaigns to promote these drugs for non-medically indicated uses.” McGrath said the companies “successfully deceived physicians, citizen-users and others in the medical community” about the safety of these drugs compared to other antipsychotics in order to carve out a greater market share.
This false promotion of these two atypical antipsychotic drugs have led to some Montanans who faced “serious injuries, illnesses, diseases or death,” McGrath charged, adding that the drugmakers illegally marketed and promoted Risperdal and Seroquel for uses not approved by the FDA, including treatment of dementia, sleep disorders, depression, attention deficit disorder, autism, depression, mood disorders and others.
A national coalition of about 30 state attorneys general is involved in a similar investigation of antipsychotic drug marketing, although not every state is participating in the effort. Arkansas, for instance, filed its own lawsuit concerning Risperdal.
That unlawful marketing and promotion turned Risperdal into one of the best-selling prescription drugs last year, with $4.2 billion in sales, McGrath continued, according to the paper. Likewise, Seroquel captured 24 percent of the market in 2006, with $3.4 billion in sales to make it AstraZeneca’s top-selling prescription drug, he said.
Among the host of side effects of the two drugs cited by McGrath are obesity, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease. As a result of the two companies’ “improper, false and misleading marketing of these atypical antipsychotic drugs,” the state of Montana and its citizens and other entities were injured and damaged, McGrath claimed. Some were people on Montana Medicaid, the state-federal program to pay for health care for poor people.
In addition, he maintained that when Risperdal and Seroquel left the hands of the two companies, “they were in defective condition, unreasonably dangerous in their design, manufacture, testing and marketing and were so at the time when they were prescribed by physicians in Montana.”
The AG is asking District Judge Thomas Honzel to rule that the two drugs were defective and dangerous, that the drugmakers engaged in false, misleading advertising and promotion, and that their conduct was unlawful. He sought civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation of state law, an order returning to the state all revenues made by the two companies here for sales of the drugs to Montanans, restitution, triple damages and attorney fees. McGrath also asked the court to award punitive and exemplary damages as appropriate.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states. A spokesman for AstraZeneca told the paper there would be no comment until the drugmaker has a chance to review the lawsuit. Janssen couldn't be reached, the paper wrote.