After years of litigation, two pharmaceutical companies have settled cases filed by Commonwealth of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway for restitution totaling nearly $40 million.
Purdue Pharma, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, agreed Tuesday to respective settlements of $24 million and $15.5 million amidst claims that the companies mislead and withheld information from the public, according to a release from the Attorney General's office.
"These companies engaged in reckless behavior that put our citizens at risk," Conway said in the release. "Both companies knowingly and aggressively marketed drugs they knew to be harmful in order to drive profits.
"I am pleased we were able to recover damages for the commonwealth and recover funds to help expand addiction treatment in Kentucky," he added.
In its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, the commonwealth alleged that the company encouraged unwitting doctors to over-prescribe the pain killer despite its knowledge the medication was highly-addictive.
"The Food and Drug Administration approved OxyContin in 1995," the release said. "Following its release, Purdue immediately launched an aggressive national marketing campaign to promote the drug, which was led by sales representatives who falsely told doctors that OxyContin wasn't addictive and was less likely to be abused than other opioid drugs."
Kentucky filed its lawsuit in 2007 after the company pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to misbranding OxyContin.
Tuesday's agreement also included a court order directing the Kentucky General Assembly to appropriate funds to further addiction treatment across the state.
The Kentucky Consumer Protection lawsuit filed by Conway alleged that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, maker of the prescription antipsychotic Risperdal, misled consumers about the dangers of using the drug and advertised its use for purposes not approved by the FDA.
While Janssen allegedly marketed the drug to children before it was approved to do so by the FDA, the company also allegedly failed to disclose vital information to patients and physicians that use of the medication could lead to breast tissue development and infertility, the release said.
Janssen pleaded guilty to federal misbranding charges regarding the elderly, which included the non-FDA approved use of Risperdal as a treatment for dementia in non-schizophrenics and failure to immediately disclose knowledge that a study suggested use of the drug doubled the risk of death.
In addition to its state settlement payment, Janssen is required in Kentucky to clearly disclose risks and is prohibited to market Risperdal for non-FDA approved uses.
While both parties settled with the commonwealth, neither Janssen Pharmaceuticals nor Purdue Pharma admitted any wrongdoing in either lawsuit.
"Going forward, we have tough terms in the settlement that will govern the way Risperdal can be marketed in the future here in Kentucky," Conway said in the release. "It is my hope that the General Assembly will allocate the money to expand addiction treatment in Kentucky."
It is up to the general assembly to decide whether or not restitution funds will be funneled through to treatment centers and programs in western Kentucky, according to Communications Director Allison Martin.