Category: Safety

Johnson & Johnson Fined $1.2 Billion for Illegal Drug Marketing

The state of Arkansas has ordered Johnson & Johnson and one of its subsidiaries, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, to pay $1.2 billion in fines for deceptively marketing the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, approved to treat conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The companies were accused of failing to provide adequate warning about potential side effects of the drug, which include diabetes, weight gain, neurological problems and increased risk of strokes and death in elderly patients with dementia.   Fletch Trammell, a lawyer in the case who had used Risperdal, said that J&J hid studies that showed Risperdal caused diabetes at a higher rate than a competing drug. The court also found nearly 240,000 instances in which the companies violated the state laws against Medicaid fraud, with each count representing one prescription for Risperdal written to a state Medicaid patient over a 3 1/2 year period. The fine for the Medicaid fraud portion of the case, at $5,000 per prescription, was the state’s minimum.  A 12 person jury deliberated for three hours before finding against J&J. Arkansas is just one of several states suing over Risperdal. South Carolina and Texas have already reached settlements with J&J in their lawsuits. J&J plans to appeal the Arkansas ruling, claiming it did not break the law and that the package insert that comes with the medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Main source: New York Times, April 11, 2012

Billboard Campaign Promotes Marijuana Legalization in Colorado

A big new billboard has appeared right over a liquor store near Mile High Stadium in Denver that shows a mainstream, straight-laced looking woman smiling with her harms folded, saying, “For many reasons, I prefer…marijuana over alcohol. Does that make me a bad person? RegulateMarijuana.org.” The board is the first in an educational campaign by backers of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a measure that will appear on the state’s November election. The group backing the measure seeks to educate people about the ways that marijuana is safer than alcohol, specifically that it is less addictive than alcohol and tends to cause fewer adverse health effects. Users also cannot overdose on marijuana. The measure would permit limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults, and would let state and local governments in Colorado regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana or ban marijuana sales completely within their jurisdictions. On its website, the pro-legalization campaign says, “We are not suggesting that marijuana is better than alcohol … We are simply asserting that there are many good reasons to use marijuana instead of alcohol.”

“Shoot First” Laws Coincide with Sharp Increase in Justifiable Homicide Incidents

Under the law, American citizens used to have to back away from threats, but since 2005 many American states have radically expanded self-defense rights to allow people to meet threats with force, not just in their own homes, but in public places as well.  Since 2005, over 30 states have passed so-called “Shoot first” or “Stand Your Ground” laws that make it harder to convict people of murder if they claim they killed in self-defense.  Since Florida’s shoot-first law was enacted in 2005, justifiable homicide cases have tripled, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  In the five years prior to the passage of Florida’s shoot-first law, 12 private citizens committed killings, but in the five years after the law’s passage, the average number of killings by private citizens in Florida jumped to 36.  The national group Associate of Prosecuting Attorneys says “Stand your Ground” laws present a barrier to the prosecution of genuine criminals.  Such laws have been spread in part through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed group in which corporations partner with legislators behind closed doors to promote conservative, pro-business bills.

Main source: OregonLive.com/Washington Post, April 7, 2012

Justice for Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.


By now millions of people know about of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Far fewer, though, know about the equally, if not more tragic killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. an elderly veteran with a heart condition who lived in White Plains, New York, who was killed by police in his own home last November. Around 5:30 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2011, Chamberlain, 68, unknowingly triggered the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck while he was sleeping. The medical alert company contacted Chamberlain’s apartment through a speaker box in the dining room to ask if he was all right. When Chamberlain didn’t respond, the company called 911 and told police they were responding to a medical emergency, not a crime. The police arrived at Chamberlain’s house and knocked on the door. Chamberlain woke up, went to the door and told the police that he was fine and that he didn’t call them. The police insisted on gaining entry to Chamberlain’s home, though, insisting that they wanted to see that he was all right. Chamberlain kept refusing to open the door and asking them to leave. Finally, after about an hour of this standoff, the officers, uttering racial slurs and expletives, broke down Mr. Chamberlain’s front door. Once inside, they fired a taser at Mr. Chamberlain. The taser prongs apparently missed Mr. Chamberlain and one of the officers shot Mr. Chamberlain in the chest, killing him.

“Stand Your Ground” Laws Linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Gun Manufacturers

“Stand your ground” laws — also called “Shoot First” laws — are drawing greater scrutiny in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old African American in Florida who was allegedly shot while simply walking home from a convenience store. Shoot First laws are versions of “Make My Day” laws that allow people who claim they fear for their life or bodily safety to freely shoot to kill someone who enters their home. Florida’s version confers a shoot-first right on people who are even in public places outside their homes. Many Shoot First laws were enacted starting in 2006 in large part due to the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive collaboration between corporations and legislators that helps advance corporate agendas in legislatures across the U.S.  ALEC composed and circulated Shoot First model legislation (pdf), which they then got into the hands of conservative legislators, helping to greatly advance their spread. ALEC’s “model” Shoot First law (which they dubbed the “Castle Doctrine Act,”) was composed by ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections” committee. In 2011, the National Rifle Association was the corporate co-chair of this ALEC committee. The NRA is funded by gun manufacturers (pdf). ALEC apparently got the idea for the law from Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, taking the idea from him and adopting it as their “model legislation” in 2006, after which the laws spread across the nation.