According to a news release by the United States Department of Justice (US DOJ), pharmaceutical and health care giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion in a settlement to resolve criminal and civil liability to resolve accusations of health care fraud. Johnson & Johnson faced charges and allegations stating that the company had improperly promoted the use of prescription drugs such as Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication, and Invega, a newer antipsychotic medication, for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe and effective. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson was further charged with paying physicians and nursing homes kickbacks. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the company’s conduct jeopardized the safety and health of vulnerable patients; as such drugs were marketed to control the conduct of elderly nursing home residents, children, and individuals suffering from developmental disabilities.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, had been promoting Risperdal to treat symptoms such as depression, hostility, anxiety, and confusion. The company admitted to promoting the drug to treat psychotic and other behavioral symptoms to those elderly patients who were non-schizophrenic, but suffering from dementia. However, Risperdal had been approved by the FDA to treat schizophrenia only. Furthermore, the government alleged that both Johnson & Johnson and Janssen were aware of the adverse health effects of taking such medications, such as the increased risk of strokes and diabetes, but had downplayed these risks when marketing them to the public. In addition, the company added incentives for the sales representatives who promoted the drug’s off-label use.
The government alleged in its complaint that the FDA advised Janssen that its Risperdal marketing efforts were misleading, stating that while elderly dementia patients may exhibit behavioral disturbances, such manifestations may not be a product of psychotic disorders. Rather, these manifestations may be appropriate responses to horrible conditions in which such patients are residing. As such, the FDA brings to light the issue that the use of antipsychotic medications may be inappropriate as a form of controlling the behavior of patients. In addition to monetary sanctions, Johnson & Johnson will be subject to an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, which will subject them to requirements that will ensure an increase in accountability and transparency to further prevent fraud and abuse.
When we place our elderly loved ones into nursing homes or residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs), we expect that they will receive quality care by caretakers and physicians who have their patient’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case, leaving room for cases of elder abuse and neglect to arise. If you believe psychotropic medications are being administered by a nursing home facility improperly, or if you believe your loved one has been injured as a result of unnecessary or inappropriate medication, we encourage you to contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi. Our passionate team of attorneys firmly believes that your loved one’s well-being should be prioritized and that nursing home residents should receive proper, individualized care. Contact us today at (888) 606-3453 for a free consultation. We serve cities all across Northern and Southern California.