Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pharmalot Lawmaker Asks NJ AG To Probe Antipsychotics

Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (Democrat)

By Ed Silverman
March 26th, 2008

New Jersey’s Medicaid program spent more than $73 million on antipsychotic meds for children less than 18 years old between 2000 and 2007, according to state records, even though the drugs weren’t approved by the FDA for treating kids. And a state official acknowledges the drugs may have been prescribed for conditions other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the approved uses.

And so a state legislator has written New Jersey Attorney General calling for an investigation. In a recent letter, Pat Diegnan, an assemblyman who has previously been outspoken about the use of these meds, wrote Anne Miligram to pursue an investigation of the “alleged misrepresentations concerning the safety and effectiveness of antipscychotic drugs,” which he first requested more than a year ago of her predecessor.

Several states are have filed lawsuits against drugmakers - Lilly, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson - for alleged improper marketing and failing to disclose serious side effects, all of which prompted state Medicaid programs to overpay for the meds, which include Zyprexa, Seroquel and Risperdal. A few hours ago, Lilly agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Alaska, which claimed the drugmaker hid side effects caused by Zyprexa.

Whether such a small settlement will motivate other states to pursue investigations remains unclear. Alaska spent $40 million over five years on Zyprexa and so the recovery is modest, to say the least. We have placed a call to a spokesman for NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram, who last year formed a task force to explore the relationship between drugmakers and docs. We will update you when we receive a reply.

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