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Mass Joins DOJ Johnson & Johnson Lawsuit over Risperdal Off Label Use

On March 11, The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts has joined the federal lawsuit against pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson regarding their off label promotion and kick-back program with Omnicare, the nation's largest pharmacy serving nursing homes. As discussed in a prior post, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in January against J&J after settling with Omnicare.

According to The Globe, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will join the suit over the marketing and promotion of the drug Risperdal for off label use. The medication is used to treat severe mental illness, but has been allegedly pushed by the company for the off label use of treating dementia in nursing home patients. It is legal for physicians to prescribe drugs off label to treat people with dementia. However, drug companies are prohibited from marketing drugs for any off label use. "The inappropriate off label marketing of anti-psychotic drugs to nursing homes is a significant health and safety issue for our seniors,’’ Coakley said in a statement released by her office.

The other issue addressed by the suit is the payment by the drug company of millions of dollars to Omnicare to encourage the company to intensively push the use of Risperdal between 1999 and 2004, using rebate programs and other incentives. The push by J&J was allegedly successful, nearly tripling the amount of their products sales to Omnicare.

The federal suit against Omnicare was settled last November.

The Globe reports Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement yesterday that “airing the facts will confirm that our conduct, including rebating programs like those the government now challenges, was lawful and appropriate.’’

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our evidence in court,’’ Goodrich said.

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