By Ed Silverman
Earlier this year, we noted that New Jersey’s Medicaid program spent more than $73 million on several 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 wrote New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram calling for an investigation. In his letter, Pat Diegnan, an assemblyman who has previously been outspoken about the use of these meds, asked Milgram 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.
In an April 1 reply, Milgram writes back that New Jersey is part of a multi-state working group investigating the marketing of Lilly’s Zyprexa. To be specific, about 30 states are looking into the controversy over off-label promotion and the extent to which side effects, such as diabetes and weight gain, were hidden. But Milgram doesn’t mention any other drugmaker or their antipsychotics in her response. Does this mean the AG isn’t looking at the issue? Or simply doesn’t want to tip her hand? A spokesman declined to comment.
“Please be assured that this office remains committed to taking action appropriate when we learn of allegations of misrepresentations related to the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals,” Milgram wrote. To date, Milgram has created a task force to examine the interplay between drugmakers and docs, and has subpoeaned Merck, Schering-Plough and Amgen over marketing various meds.