In the news: Johnson & Johnson fined over $2 billion dollars for false advertising drug benefits

in the news

By Lisa Ackerman

On November 4, 2013 Johnson and Johnson was fined $2.2 billion in one of the largest health care related settlements (1.)  Here is what the press had to say:

The penalties announced Monday involve fines and forfeiture to the federal government and several states. The settlement involves the schizophrenia drugs Risperdal and Invega, and the heart failure drug Natrecor, the company and Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Johnson & Johnson and two subsidiaries “lined their pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, patients and the private insurance industry,” Holder said.

Risperdal is one of the two drugs offered to individuals with autism as approved by the FDA.  While this lawsuit is geared more towards elderly care allegations of fraud, it INVOLVES a drug that is commonly administered to individuals with autism.

In the past, this drug has had problems in the autism community.  Those issues involve side effects that lead to a lawsuit citing males being diagnosed with gynecomastia (2.)  Gynecomastia is defined as the enlargement of breast tissue in males. Sometimes an additional side effect includes lactating breasts (3.) Yes, that means males with breasts that lactate.

It is timely that our recent TACAnow blog “Drugs aren’t always the answer” (4) was shared just one week ago. It’s no wonder that parents are concerned and leery of drugs especially with young children.

As we shared this story with TACA families, I received a note from one of them:

My son was offered Risperdal by a psychiatrist at age 2. At the time, he had no aggressive behaviors, just wasn’t developing speech and was stimming all the time. The doctor told me it was “for autism.” I knew nothing of biomed back then, but fortunately alarm bells went off and I said no to his offer.

 I wish this was the first time we received a parent report like the one above. We have heard similar stories many times.

I wish treatment was as simple as a pill. If so, TACA would be ready to share that type of information.  We respect and realize that medication can be a tremendous solution for some families, but not for others.  It’s up to parents to research what their children need, become aware of side effects and determine what is best for their family.

Here is what parents can do today:

–          Get connected with TACA

–          Obtain a free TACA mentor

–          Attend free TACA meetings and conferences

–          Continue to ask questions and seek medical treatments appropriate to your child’s needs

TACA is here to help. Please visit our website for information on our programs and services for families living with autism



6 thoughts on “In the news: Johnson & Johnson fined over $2 billion dollars for false advertising drug benefits

Add yours

  1. I believe medications are a last resort and I am a pharmacist, particularly when we give them to people who can’t tell us what they are feeling or experiencing. These drug have many side effects and none have been tested in children.

  2. If a Psychiatrist prescribes Risperdal to a two year old just because it’s “for Autism” he needs to be both disciplined and re-educated. My son has been on Risperdal for 6 years now (since age 10) to alleviate aggression (the reason it is used in Autism), Unfortunately the drug is a two edged sword but my boy cannot be without it, and in fact it has literally saved his life.

    1. Emma

      Thanks for your input. If you don’t mind I have a few questions:

      1) what symptoms did your son have at 4 to look towards risperdol ?
      2) have you had to increase the risperdol dose to get the same effects?
      3) does your son have other diagnosed issues? (I.e. seizures, gastrointestinal, mitochondria, cerebral folate, allergies, PANDAS?)

      Thanks for sharing

      1. Lisa my son went on to Risperdal at 10 (not 4). He was diagnosed with HFA at 10 and not too far after with OCD and Tourettes as well. The reason his Psychiatrist commenced him on Risperdal was because he was a danger to himself and others. He melted down and was physically and verbally aggressive all his waking hours. He damaged property, hurt his younger brother, hurt me, absconded many times a day, talked of suicide and often attempted suicide by running onto the street and lie on the ride as cars were coming. When he commenced the Risperdal it was fairly new onto the market and although was approved for use for aggressive behaviour in Autism it was not available on the PBS. Fortunately for us this medication literally saves my sons life everyday. A number of months ago (after his 16th birthday) I wondered if he needed it anymore as the behaviours had been consistently “good” for close to 4 years. (The first year that he was on the Risperdal made a huge impact and it also enable the use of talk therapy which combined resulted in successful behaviour modification). However it took only 4 days of a half dosage reduction to realize that my son would not manage without it as his aggression reappeared very quickly. My son started on 1 mg of Risperdal at 10, went to 1.5 and then eventually back down to Unfortunately he immediately started putting on excess weight and went from a little boy who was scrawny to a very big fellow. At 16 he is now 6’1″ and 140 Kgs. we are about to start seeing a dietician to help. Initially the drug also resulted in terrible somnolence which was very upsetting as he would fall asleep in school and at home. About 12 months after he started the Risperdal I also requested that he trial Concerta as his “ADHD type behaviours in Autism” were becoming worse. Once the Concerta was established it counteracted the somnolence (which was a beneficial side effect). I do hope that this is helpful…please feel welcome to email me if you’d like to know more.

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