- Veteran reporter (and healthcare industry gadfly) Steve Brill is writing a provocative series about Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its history with Risperdal (risperidone) in a 15-chapter, 59,000-word "docu-serial" in the Huffington Post. The series is titled, "America's Most Admired Lawmaker."
- Brill lays out the story first by focusing on the fact that although J&J is broadly recognized for its consumer brands (such as Tylenol, Listerine, Visine, Neutrogena, etc.), 80% of the company's revenues and 91% of its profits are generated from sales of medical devices and prescription pharmaceuticals.
- The title of chapter one, "The Credo Company," is a reference to J&J's 308-word statement that sums up the company's philosophy, which in a nutshell translates to: "Patients first, profits last." Chapter 2 is now also out, and is titled, "Blowing Past The Label."
Chapter 1 of Brill's docu-serial packs a serious punch, as Brill combines his storytelling prowess with his critical take on the Risperdal situation. The upshot of his analysis hinges on the fact that there are thousands of claims against J&J in state courts, alleging that off-label promotion of Risperdal to children and adolescents resulted in severe consequences, including growth of breasts in boys. Brill charts the storyline from 1994 when Risperdal was approved for management of manifestations of psyhcotic disorder in adults related to severe illness causing hallucinations or delusions, to the present.
Brill's main takeaway is that in order to meet sales goals, J&J's marketing and sales teams devised a strategy of off-label communications to broaden the pool of patients. But on the other side of this story is the issue of how off-label communication should be handled. For example, if a healthcare practitioner (HCP) requests specific information about an off-label use, reps are supposed to refer the HCP back to a medical affairs department, who can then communicate evidence-based, scientifically accurate information to the HCP. Obviously, off-label communications is a murky area.
Chapter 1 lays out the storyline, providing a foundation for the story, which will continue to unfold over the next 15 days. You can read the series here.