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Risperdal: Johnson & Johnson Profits Off Their Dangerous Drug

Known as one of America's most prominent makers of pharmaceutical and consumer goods, Johnson & Johnson products can be found in nearly every home. But this household name isn't always as family-friendly or client-focused as it would like to claim.

For numerous years, studies and investigations have been done on one of the most dangerous drugsJ&J has pushed onto the market. That drug is Risperdal. While it has a limited FDA-approved use, Risperdal has actually been used to treat many off-label conditions. In fact, the off-label treatments are what have turned Risperdal into a $3-billion-a-year drug.

What Is Risperdal Actually Made to Treat?

Back in 1994 when Risperdal was first introduced, it was approved by the FDA to treat mainly schizophrenia in adults-nothing else. However, J&J didn't see this market as being very profitable.

The company quickly expanded their reach, targeting elderly individuals with hostile behaviors brought on by diseases like dementia. They never had enough evidence or compelling proof for this antipsychotic medicine to be used for this purpose according to the FDA. Still, they prevailed in getting it into nursing homes across the country. They even paid doctors consulting fees and kickbacks to get Risperdal prescribed to seniors.

Next, J&J targeted young children who had autism. This was another off-label use that Johnson & Johnson never had adequate information or evidence to get approval for. Still, they pushed on and got the drug in the hands of countless children, convincing their families it was safe and helpful. By 2004, breaking into this market had turned Risperdal into a drug that brought in billions of dollars every year. Johnson & Johnson wasn't about to slow down in their off-label promotions of this drug.

A Good Drug Being Used in a Bad Way

While Risperdal is actually a helpful drug for many people, its uses have been stretched and abused by Johnson & Johnson. Without sufficient support, they began aggressively entering into markets that society considers the most vulnerable: children and the elderly. This profit-centered behavior becomes even more shocking when faced with statistics and study results that show how dangerous the off-label use can be-insights that J&J knew, yet ignored.

When the FDA brought up the issue of excess deaths in seniors who were taking Risperdal, they were largely ignored. Sure, J&J put warnings labels where needed, but the FDA noted that these warnings were very small and the alleged benefits of Risperdal largely promoted in comparison.

Even more shocking were the results found by a study done by J&J themselves. The study revealed that 5.5% percent of boys taking Risperdal developed a condition known as gynecomastia, which causes them to develop large breasts. Sadly, not much was done to exclude this market.

Now, after allegedly hiding the data and manipulating study results, J&J has pleaded guilty and paid more than $2 billion in penalties. While J&J is expected to dish out a total of $6 billion in settlements for its misconduct, that is barely a dent in the nearly $30 billion in sales Risperdal has brought in. Criminal actions seem to have paid off for a "client-centered" company this time.

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