15 Apr 2012

Anti-psychotic drug side effects known, says ministry

6:10 am on 15 April 2012

The Ministry of Health is reassuring patients who've been prescribed the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal after a US court ruled its manufacturer had downplayed the product's risks.

A judge in the US state of Arkansas has fined pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson and a subsidiary more than $1 billion for using fraudulent tactics before 2004 to sell the drug.

Risperdal was prescribed to more than 14,000 New Zealanders last year to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and dementia, and continues to be prescribed.

A Medsafe spokesperson, Stewart Jessamine says the drug is not defective and there's no need for anyone to worry about the ruling.

He says the potential side effects such as seizures, major weight gain and the risk of strokes or death in elderly patients have been clearly documented in New Zealand.

"The safety data that is at the heart of this complaint has been available in New Zealand and was disseminated to prescribers since 2004."

Dr Jessamine says there is no evidence to suggest the drug is being marketed inaccurately to prescribers in New Zealand.