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Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2B to settle drug-marketing cases

Updated: December 6, 2013 6:15AM

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries have agreed on Monday to pay over $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations of promoting prescription drugs for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration — which was first brought to light by a Chicago-area whistle-blower.

The allegations include paying kickbacks to physicians and pharmacies to incorrectly prescribe Risperdal and Invega, both antipsychotic drugs, and Natrecor, which is used to treat heart failure. U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors alleged that elderly dementia patients were put on the powerful schizophrenia drug Risperdal, which was later discovered to increase risk of death in the elderly.

The agreement is the third-largest U.S. settlement involving a drugmaker, including criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $485 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion.

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson said they will plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation related to Risperdal which took place from 1999 through 2005.

“This resolution allows us to move forward and continue to focus on delivering innovative solutions that improve and enhance the health and well-being of patients around the world,” said Johnson & Johnson Vice President and General Counsel Michael Ullmann.

Northbrook resident Bernard Lisitza, a former Omnicare Inc. pharmacist in Chicago, filed a lawsuit in 2003 alleging he was fired after he challenged Johnson & Johnson’s alleged kickbacks to the pharmacy and other improper practices at Omnicare. Omnicare agreed to a $90 million settlement in 2009 with the federal government and numerous states to resolve its allegations “with no finding of wrongdoing or admission of liability,” a spokesman said.

The Johnson & Johnson settlement is the fifth time that Lisitza has helped bring to light alleged misconduct at three other companies that he allegedly observed while at Omnicare. Lisitza, who could not be reached for comment, has donated much of the roughly $25 million he has received to his synagogue, his whistle-blower attorney Linda Wyetzner, of Behn & Wyetzner.

Wyetzner said Lisitza is “thrilled” to hear Monday’s announcement.

“He wanted to do the right thing, and now he’s been vindicated,” she said.

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1

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