In January 2010, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) joined a growing list of major drug companies to be sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for illegal actions to persuade nursing homes and doctors to use antipsychotics to drug elderly residents with dementia.
Antipsychotic drugs are a form of death sentence for many nursing home residents. The FDA has not approved their use for treatment of dementia. Rather, it has determined that antipsychotic drugs greatly increase the risk of death for persons with dementia.
J&J is accused of paying tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare, the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy, to induce Omnicare and its pharmacists to recommend Risperdal (an antipsychotic drug produced by J&J) for nursing home residents who had dementia.
According to the Department of Justice, the kickbacks were extremely effective. The lawsuit states: “During the 1999 through 2004 period, Omnicare engaged in intensive efforts to convince physicians to prescribe J&J drugs, and Omnicare’s annual purchases of J&J drugs increased from approximately $100 milliion to over $280 million, with annual purchases of Risperdal alone rising to over $100 million.”
A “Risperdal Initiative” sought to generate as many Risperdal prescriptions as possible. As part of this initiative, Omnicare provided J&J with a list of “resistant prescribers” so that J&J’s sales force could “increase the call frequency on these resistant prescribers and to eventually influence them to use more Risperdal in the Elderly demented patient.” By July of 1999, Omnicare helped J&J identify more than 350 resistant physicians who were targeted for Risperdal promotions.
In November 2009, Omnicare, which dispenses drugs to approximately 1.4 million long- term care residents in 47 states, entered a $98 million False Claims Act settlement with the United States for taking kickbacks from J&J.
This lawsuit is the most recent reminder that drug companies, pharmacies, doctors, and nursing homes are putting many residents’ lives at risk while conspiring to profit from the widespread misuse of antipsychotic drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice news release can be found at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-civ-042.html
The lawsuit and exhibits are available at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/J&J.html