Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2 billion to end U.S. drug probes

Mon Nov 4, 2013 2:42pm EST
 
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By David Ingram and Ros Krasny

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, Johnson & Johnson will pay $2.2 billion to end civil and criminal investigations into kickbacks to pharmacists and the marketing of pharmaceuticals for off-label uses, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday.

The resolution of the long-running case covers the marketing of the anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega and the heart drug Natrecor over several years.

From 1999 through 2005, J&J and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc promoted Risperdal for unapproved uses, including controlling aggression and anxiety in elderly dementia patients and treating behavioral disturbances in children and in individuals with disabilities, according to the complaint.

The off-label marketing cost U.S. government insurance programs hundreds of millions of dollars in uncovered claims, the complaint said.

Under the settlement, Janssen will plead guilty to a single misdemeanor violation for its promotion of Rispersdal.

Meanwhile, the company paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare Inc, the nation's largest pharmacy specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients, under various guises including "educational funding."

Johnson & Johnson's conduct "recklessly put at risk" the health of children, dementia patients and others to whom the drug was prescribed at a time it was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia, Holder said.

Janssen's sales representatives "aggressively" promoted Risperdal to doctors and other prescribers who treated elderly dementia patients, and through a special "ElderCare sales force" targeted nursing home operators.   Continued...