Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2B in U.S. Health Care Fraud Settlement

I was pleased to learn that Johnson & Johnson is being held accountable under the false claims act for promoting three prescriptions drugs (Risperdol, Invega and Natrecord) in way that put the elderly, children and mentally ill at risk. (See article http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/2-Billion-Settlement-Largest-Single-Drug-Civil-4953700.php) I have previously blogged about the misuse and abuse of psychotropic medications in nursing homes and I find the allegations against Johnson & Johnson outrageous.

Johnson & Johnson was accused of paying kickbacks to doctors and pharmacies to recommend and prescribe psychotropic drugs to the elderly in a way that was unsafe.  As federal studies have demonstrated, psychotropic drugs are being overused because nursing homes don’t have sufficient staff to care for certain behaviors that patients exhibit because of dementia.

Criminal charges were brought over Ripserdal sales representatives promoting it to doctors and other prescribers for symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, depression, hostility and confusion despite the drug having only been approved for schizophrenia at the time.  Sales representatives were allegedly offered incentives for the off-label use of these drugs.  It is unclear from the article as to what extent these fines will impact Johnson & Johnson. For example, are these fines just the cost of doing business, or do they exceed the profit earned from wrongfully promoting these drugs?  It is important to note that part of this lawsuit involved criminal charges, but because the corporation entity was the defendant, no individual from the corporation will be held accountable.

The importance of knowing what drugs are being prescribed to a loved one and for what reason cannot be overstated.  It is important to know dosage and also the side effects.

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