Drug giants spend billions a year promoting their pills to children, ignoring FDA rules. Johnson & Johnson even advertises its latest anti-psychotic on Legos, ignoring evidence that the drug leads to diabetes and wild weight gain and sprouts breast in boths boys and girls.
August 5, 2011
In the past decade, America’s pharmaceutical industry has knowingly marketed dozens of dangerous drugs to millions of children, a group that executives apparently view as a lucrative, untapped market for their products. Most kids have no one to look out for their interests except anxious parents who put their trust in doctors. But that trust is often misplaced. Big Pharma spends massive amounts to entertain physicians, send them on luxury vacations, and ply them with an endless supply of free products. As a result, hundreds of thousands of American kids—some as young as three years old—have become dependent on amphetamines like Adderall and a pharmacopeia of other drugs that are meant to treat depression, insomnia, aggression and other mental health disorders.
The fact that none of these powerful mood-altering medications have been approved by the FDA to treat children under 10 has posed no obstacle to the industry’s marketing masterminds. They’ve waved off objections by some some doctors who wonder how these complex drugs will affect the vulnerable brains and bodies of their young patients. Other experts have warned that children exposed to this multi-molecular barrage on their central nervous systems could potentially be at much higher risk of becoming adults who are addicted to chemicals, prescription and otherwise. But thanks to a billion-dollar advertising campaign, millions of kids across the nation are now taking pills to control a long litany of “behavioral problems.”
Luckily, Johnson and Johnson is not getting off scot-free. Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakely announced that the state was suing the world’s biggest pharmaceutical firm, Johnson & Johnson, for illegally promoting Risperdal, an “atypical anti-psychotic”, for off-label treatment of childhood schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, anger management, mood enhancement or stabilization. As BNet’s Placebo Effect blog recently reported, the list of maladies is grotesquely long. J&J, which prides itself on its high-minded credo of “always putting patients first,” began moving its new drug into this new market as soon as Risperdal won approval in adults—even though the FDA explicitly forbid it from doing so, for the simple reason that the firm had never done a single test of the drug in children who suffered from these or any other conditions.