by Tony Chicotel, CANHR Staff Attorney
Sunday’s New York Times featured an article highlighting the inaccurate and unsavory marketing efforts by large pharmaceutical companies to increase sales of antipsychotic medications. The article, titled “Side Effects May Include Lawsuits,” recounts how information about problematic side effects of antipsychotic drugs were suppressed while paid speakers bombarded physicians with misleading and false “education” about the drugs’ effectiveness in treating children and the elderly. This treatment for conditions other than diagnosed psychosis is known as “off-label” because the FDA has not approved such usage. Physicians who bought the marketing message and became high prescribers were amply rewarded in what the U.S. government has called illegal kickbacks. The marketing efforts have been wildly successful as antipsychotics have become the top selling class of drugs in the nation to the tune of $14.6 billion.
While the government and civil litigation lawyers are busy filing lawsuits against the big pharmaceutical companies, the use of antipsychotics in California nursing homes continues unabated. About 25% of all residents receive an antipsychotic drug, most with no diagnosis of psychosis.