Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has created a separate health-based agency within his office that will also deal with all medical-based litigation.

McDaniel said his new health-care bureau would also handle consumer complaints of unfair and deceptive practices against medical groups, AP reported Friday. The AG promised to create such a bureau while on the AG campaign trail last year.

The bureau will also coordinate with state and federal healthcare agencies and advise the state governor and legislature on health issues. It will be headed by Assistant Attorney General Jean Block.

On Nov. 20, McDaniel filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., Janssen LP and Johnson & Johnson Inc., alleging the companies engaged in illegal promotion of the drug Risperadal for use that was not medically necessary.

McDaniel has estimated that the state's Medicaid program spent about $200 million over eight years to pay for prescriptions for Zyprexa, Seroquel and Risperdal.

McDaniel has said the drugs were prescribed for uses not approved by federal regulators or indicated in labeling and accused the companies of "deceptive" marketing practices that pushed physicians to prescribe Risperdal much more than necessary.

The lawsuit is being handled by Bailey Perrin Bailey LLP of Houston, which will bear all the lawsuit's expenses and receive a 15 percent fee. The Texas firm is handling similar litigation for six other states.

Marilyn Tennissen contributed to this article.

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