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US Department of Justice sues J&J

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims kickbacks were paid to nursing home pharmacy, Omnicare

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) over claims the pharmaceutical giant paid kickbacks to nursing home pharmacy, Omnicare, to encourage the purchase and recommendation of J&J drugs.

The legal suit is known as a civil False Claims Act and has been filed against J&J along with two of its subsidiaries, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc.

The companies are accused of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare, who specialise in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients in the US. It is claimed that J&J knew the working practices of Omnicare and were aware that around 80 per cent of the time, physicans would take the prescribing advice of Omnicare pharmacists regarding nursing home patients.

The US government alleges that J&J viewed Omnicare pharmacists as an "extension of [J&J's] sales force".

The complaint contains numerous allegations made by the state including:
· that J&J entered into agreements entitling Omnicare to increasing levels of rebates from J&J so long as specific programmes to increase the prescriptions of J&J drugs were implemented
· that J&J paid Omnicare millions of dollars for "data," much of which Omnicare never provided. Allegedly, the true purpose of these payments was to induce Omnicare to recommend J&J drugs
· that J&J made various other substantial kickback payments to Omnicare, calling the payments "grants" and "educational funding," even though their true purpose was to induce Omnicare to recommend J&J drugs.

"We will pursue those who break the law to take advantage of the elderly and the poor," said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice. "Kickbacks such as those alleged here distort the judgments of health care professionals and put profits ahead of sound medical treatment."

18th January 2010

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