Bayer & Janssen Use Celebrities to Promote Xarelto Despite Ongoing Litigation

Despite ongoing federal and state litigation, defendants Bayer HealthCare AG and Janssen Pharmaceuticals have broadcast a TV commercial for more than a year, where celebrities tout the dangerous drug. The 7-minute Xarelto TV Spot, “Reduce Your Risk” features well loved-figures:

  • Comedian, actor and writer Kevin Nealon
  • Champion NASCAR driver Brian Vickers
  • Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer

The commercial, available on YouTube, runs for more than a minute before a voiceover mentions that it can cause blood clots, stroke, serious bleeding and death. The warning is effectively nullified at 1:42, when Vickers says, “Xarelto has been prescribed more than 11 million times in the US and that number is growing.”

2,800 Federal Lawsuits

Also growing is the massive litigation against the makers of Xarelto, consolidated in a multidistrict litigation docket (MDL) in the Philadephia Court Of Common Pleas and in MDL 2592 in US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. More than 2,800 lawsuits are filed in the federal MDL 2592 alone.

Xarelto (Rivaroxaban) is a prescription anticoagulant medication that prevents the formation of blood clots by blocking certain clotting proteins in blood. Three additional indications of use for Xarelto are:

  • Used in people with atrial fibrillation (heart rhythm disorder) to reduce the risk of stroke caused by a blood clot.
  • Used to prevent/treat deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).
  • Used to reduce the risk of the formation of blood clots in the legs (DVT) and lungs (PE) after hip or knee replacement surgery.

The advertising must be working, because Xarelto brought in about $2 billion for Bayer and J&J in 2015 alone (Janssen is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson). In the first quarter of 2016, J&J reported the drug has already made $567 million.

Ban commercials for prescription drugs

In 2015 the American Medical Association (AMA) called for a ban on this kind of direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs. Responding to the billions of advertising dollars being spent to promote prescription products, AMA physicians cited concerns about the proliferation of ads that are driving demand for prescription drugs.

Advertising dollars spent by drug makers have increased by 30 percent in the last two years to $4.5 billion, according to the market research firm Kantar Media.

“The advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. on Nov. 17, 2015. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.


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