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J & J to pay out $2.2 billion over false marketing and kickbacks to doctors

It is one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in US history.

Image: Luis García via Wikimedia Commons

HEALTHCARE GIANT JOHNSON & Johnson is to pay $2.2 billion to settle allegations of false marketing of drugs and paying kickbacks to pharmacists and doctors for promoting and prescribing certain drugs that had not yet been approved as safe or effective.

The US Justice Department announced the settlement at a press conference yesterday. Attorney General Eric Holder said the company – as well as three of its subsidiaries – lined its pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, patients, and the private insurance industry.

“They drove up costs for everyone in the health care system and negatively impacted the long-term solvency of essential health care programs like Medicare,” he added.

The global settlement resolves investigations involving antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega and the heart drug Natrecor.

In its plea agreement, Janssen admitted that it promoted Risperdal to healthcare providers for the treatment of psychotic symptoms and associated behaviours exhibited by elderly, non-schizophrenic patients who suffered from dementia – even though the drug was approved only to treat schizophrenia.

In separately filed civil complaints, the government alleged that J&J and Janssen promoted Risperdal and Invega, a newer antipsychotic drug, to doctors – and to nursing homes – as a way to control behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients, children, and the mentally disabled.

According to the complaints, Janssen was aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of strokes, and for children, including the risk of elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast development and milk production.

The New Jersey-based company said the agreements with federal authorities are not an admission of liability or wrongdoing. It expressly denied the government’s civil allegations.

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