If companies are people, my friend, like Mitt Romney famously described in Iowa in August 2011, then we’re feeling a little bad for our fellow person called Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of health care giant Johnson & Johnson.
They just got dinged with a $158 million settlement in a Medicaid fraud case in Texas for “making false or misleading statements about the safety, cost and effectiveness of the expensive anti-psychotic medication Risperdal, and improperly influencing officials and doctors to push the drug.”
But we won’t feel too badly, because Janssen got off easy with this one. They don’t have to admit to any liability with the settlement, and Johnson & Johnson — who made billions off of the sale of Risperdal — will barely blink their corporate eyeballs as they make out the check.
This is the third state settlement for Johnson & Johnson in connection to their promotion and marketing of Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic medication that was touted to be a drug better than sliced bread — and with far less side effects. (Too bad corporations don’t eat, my friend.) They’ve been ordered to pay $327 million in South Carolina, and $258 million in Louisiana in similar state lawsuits.
That brings the grand total to $743 million the company will pay for allegedly fraudulently marketing the drug Risperdal. That’s a pretty crazy number for a company claims that it’s done nothing wrong.
The really sad part of it for me is that our fellow person, Janssen, is either is in denial about what it’s done wrong with regards to marketing of Risperdal, or simply lying:
At the start of the trial, lawyers for New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson had insisted the company did nothing improper in marketing the drug.
“Janssen is committed to ethical business practices and had policies in place to ensure its products are only promoted for their FDA-approved indications,” the company said in its settlement statement
Maybe we should sign-up Mr. Janssen for some Freudian psychoanalysis.
Nothing improper? Then why have two states already found you guilty of doing activities you consider “proper,” and why are you so willing to pay out three-quarters of a billion dollars so far?? Innocent parties rarely would be willing to pay out such enormous sums of money unless they knew there was something more to all of this.
You should also check out the interview Pharmalot has just published with Allen Jones, the whistleblower on the Risperdal cases (without his standing up for what’s right and ethical, the states probably would’ve never had a case to make). It’s sad to see the end result is a much more cynical man:
Pharmalot: What have you learned from all this?
Jones: I live in a world that seems very different to me than the one I stumbled into since this began. There were so many layers of disillusionment after seeing what I thought were supposed to be good intentions of the pharmaceutical industry and government. I see greed and cynicism and bureaucrats protecting their fat bellies and fat pensions. But I’ve acquired more skills to live in a cynical world in which I see I live in. I lost of a heck of a lot of innocence along the way.
But maybe that’s the inevitable result of pharmaceutical companies who put profit ahead of all else — even ethical marketing of their products.
Hence my continued skepticism about any new psychiatric medication to hit the market. Over the past decade, we’ve seen virtually all the psychiatric pharmaceutical companies be indicted or pay settlements or fines for their unethical behavior when it comes to marketing and selling such medications.
We can only hope these kinds of settlements make them think twice for behaving badly in the future. But when it comes to shareholder profits versus a possible future fine and a slap on the wrist, my gut tells me to trust companies will continue to pursue shareholder profits at all expenses… Even when what it appears they are doing is illegal and unethical, and appears to cause very real health complications to millions of people.
Read the full interview with Allen Jones at Pharmalot: Risperdal Whistleblower: J&J Credo Is ‘Empty Words’
Read the news story on the settlement: Johnson & Johnson settles Texas lawsuit for $158M