State ends medication headache

Attorney General Rob McKenna announced Sept. 1 that Washington state has joined with other states in reaching an agreement with the manufacturer of a drug to treat epilepsy and migraines.

According to the federal government and several states, the makers of Topamax illegally promoted their drug to treat symptoms for other than those approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, Medicaid and other government health care programs paid millions more for Topamax prescriptions than they should have.

“The Attorney General’s Office holds drug companies accountable for following the law when they’re doing business with Medicaid,” McKenna said. “This ensures that public money isn’t wasted buying drugs for unapproved uses.”

It is alleged that Ortho-McNeil-Janssen marketed Topamax to physicians for a variety of psychiatric conditions including bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol dependency. Topamax is not approved to treat these conditions.

The drug company will pay state Medicaid Programs about $199,000. Another $398,000 will be paid to the general fund. The rest of the funds are returned to the federal government to cover its share of Medicaid funds wrongly distributed for Topamax in Washington. Settlement payments are calculated based on how much was improperly spent on drugs in states during the time that a drug was improperly marketed.

The state settlement is part of a recent agreement between the company and the U.S. that was announced in April by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

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