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Johnson & Johnson Coughs Up $2.2 Billion in Drug-Marketing Settlement

Johnson & Johnson’s antipsychotic medicine Risperdal Consta
Johnson & Johnson’s antipsychotic medicine Risperdal ConstaPhotograph by JB Reed/Bloomberg

Pharmaceutical pitchmen may weigh their words more carefully from now on after Johnson & Johnson agreed on Monday to pay $2.2 billion to settle charges that it was overly broad in its marketing.

The settlement with the federal government and 45 states ends a decade-long inquiry into Risperdal Consta, one of the company’s best-selling drugs approved by regulators to treat schizophrenia in adults. J&J allegedly tried to broaden the market a bit, pitching the drug as a treatment for symptoms triggered by afflictions ranging from dementia to anxiety. The case rests on a strange wrinkle in U.S. health-care rules: Physicians can prescribe a drug to treat unapproved medical conditions even though it remains illegal for the drugmaker to market its pills for those treatments.