J&J in court in two states on Risperdal

Posted: March 27, 2012

Johnson & Johnson is trying to take money away from whistle-blower Allen Jones and, thereby, discourage others from stepping forward to describe pharmaceutical company malfeasance, Jones said Monday.

J&J is scheduled to be in court Tuesday in Arkansas and Texas because of allegations that it illegally promoted its antipsychotic drug Risperdal through state-administered and taxpayer-funded Medicaid plans, without sufficient disclosure of risk.

Medicaid is the government insurance program that serves the poor and disabled.

New Jersey-based J&J is the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which makes Risperdal.

The Arkansas case has opening statements Tuesday, while the Texas hearing could be a request by J&J to reduce or eliminate the portion of the $158 million settlement that goes to Jones.

J&J, through Janssen spokeswoman Teresa Mueller, declined to comment on Jones' assertion.

Generally, whistle blowers get 15 to 30 percent. On the day the case was settled, Jones said he was uncertain what money he would get from his years of effort, which he said created financial hardship for him and his family.

A former investigator for the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, Jones uncovered payments to officials in Pennsylvania that led him to similar problems in Texas. His 2004 whistle-blower suit in Texas was joined by the state's Attorney General Greg Abbott. After several days of trial testimony in January, J&J negotiated the payment to end the trial.

"J&J is acting out of a deep and abiding corporate disconnect between reality and what their lawyers are telling them," Jones said via e-mail. "They have 'bleed 'em and plead 'em' lawyers who are reveling in J&J's deep pockets while leading their clients down a primrose path."

Mueller declined to respond to Jones' comments, but said, "Janssen remains committed to paying the agreed amount. The items being discussed between the parties and the attorney general's office are the final terms of the agreement."

As for Arkansas, Mueller said, "We are prepared to vigorously defend ourselves against these claims. We are committed to ethical business practices, and have policies in place to ensure that our products are only promoted for their FDA-approved indication."

Antipsychotic drugs have been the focus of health-care fraud cases with some of the largest financial settlements.

Besides Texas and Arkansas, several other states have individual cases pending. Though the Justice Department won't comment, the federal government is negotiating on behalf of itself and a separate group of states with J&J on Risperdal litigation.

The Texas result reportedly prompted government lawyers to increase the amount they want from J&J to $1.8 billion to settle criminal and civil charges, which would be a new record for one drug.

Texas Medicaid chief Billy Millwee testified Thursday in Washington at a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on the subject of overdosing and overprescribing of painkillers and psychotropic drugs, which include antipsychotics.

"When you shine a bright light on something," Millwee said, "that's how you get it fixed."

Contact David Sell at 215-854-4506 or dsell@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @PhillyPharma. Read his PhillyPharma blog on philly.com.

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