In a massive fraud settlement, Johnson & Johnson will pay $2.2 billion for a half-a-decade’s worth of illegal marketing of anti-psychotic and heart drugs that officials charged “recklessly put patients and children’s health at risk.” But the settlement won’t extract a full admission of guilt from Johnson & Johnson, which pleaded to a single misdemeanor violation of marketing Rispersdal, a drug approved for schizophrenia, to dementia patients.
According to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson’s aggressive marketing of Rispersdal included paying millions of dollars to a large pharmacy for nursing home patients and promoting the drug to doctors for off-brand purposes.
“Put simply, this alleged conduct is shameful and it is unacceptable,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday. “It displayed a reckless indifference to the safety of the American people. And it constituted a clear abuse of the public trust, showing a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to protect public health.”
Before Johnson & Johnson agreed to the $2.2 billion sum for criminal and civil damages, the company sought to avoid more blame that it downplayed the drug’s risks of increasing prolactin, which induced side effects including breast development in males. By avoiding this charge, the company would have an easier time winning other private lawsuits.
On Monday, the subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, maintained no wrongdoing outside of the misdemeanor. “Janssen accepts accountability for the actions described in the misdemeanor plea. The settlement of the civil allegations is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing, and the Company expressly denies the government’s civil allegations,” the statement said.
Illegal marketing is not the only strategy pharmaceuticals use to pump profits. By pushing expensive brand names over generics, pharmaceuticals have managed to drive up health care costs for everyone.