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Johnson & Johnson Will Pay Over $2 Billion to Settle False Marketing

It was announced on Monday, November 4, 2013, that the healthcare giant, Johnson & Johnson will pay out $2.2 billion to settle false marketing charges. The charges are that Johnson & Johnson marketed drugs for uses that had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and paid “kickbacks” to both doctors and nursing homes.

The settlement involves payments by Johnson & Johnson to the federal government and a number of states, along with payments from subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Scios. These payments from penalties that were announced on Monday include fines and forfeiture to the federal government and several states.

Lined their pockets

Attorney General Eric Holder said that the settlement involved the heart failure drug Natrecor and two schizophrenia drugs Risperdal and Invega. Holder said that Johnson & Johnson and the two subsidiaries mentioned above “lined their pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, patients and the private insurance industry

Risperdal had been approved by the FDA to treat schizophrenia. However, Johnson & Johnson marketed the drug to nursing homes and doctors as a treatment for elderly patients who had dementia.

Defended the drug

On Monday, Johnson & Johnson defended the drug Risperdal “as safe and effective for its approved indications.” The company said that 20 years of research has shown that Risperdal is “an important treatment option for people with serious mental illness.”

Johnson & Johnson is going to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding that comes from the marketing charges. According to the settlement, the company knew that patients who were taking Risperdal had an increased risk of getting diabetes, but did not publicly acknowledge this risk.

Consultant pharmacists

Johnson & Johnson also pushed the use of Risperdal in nursing homes by sending pharmacists who were paid by the company to nursing homes to review patient records. The Justice Department said, “Although consultant pharmacists purported to provide ’independent’ recommendations based on their clinical judgment, J&J viewed the pharmacists as an ’extension of (J&J’s) sales force.’” Attorney General Holder said that kickbacks and other incentives could have put the “health of some patients at risk.”

In addition, Johnson & Johnson and another subsidiary sold Risperdal and Invega as drugs that were safe for elderly patients. Federal officials said that this was done in part by way of an “ElderCare sales force.” The FDA considered this claim as being “misleading.”
The heart failure drug Natrecor was sold as a treatment for people who had less severe heart failure than what was listed in the FDA approval of the drug. This, again, was according to a statement by the Department of Justice.

Whistleblower payout

The $2.2 billion settlement is one of the largest healthcare settlements in the history of the United States. In addition, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys said that this was the largest whistleblower payout in United States history. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers in three states will receive $167.7 million.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of this or some other false marketing, the best thing to do is to call a personal injury attorney and discuss your case at no cost or obligation to you.

article written by James Shugart

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