As if the children’s Tylenol scandal is not enough, Johnson & Johnson is now facing additional criminal charges over another drug scandal involving the epilepsy drug Topamax. Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, both divisions of Johnson & Johnson, recently pleaded guilty to civil and criminal charges over misbranding and illegally marketing the anticonvulsant drug.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the Johnson & Johnson company as a whole will end up forking over more than $81 million to settle the cases. McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC, the same company that was producing the tainted children’s Tylenol products, will pay $6.41 million for misbranding Topamax, and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals will pay $75.37 million for illegally marketing it.
According to reports, these Johnson & Johnson companies hired doctors to accompany drug sales representatives during various doctor visits. These paid physicians proceeded to consult with other doctors, recommending uses and dosages for the drugs that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the terms, the federal government will receive more than $50 million from the settlement, Medicaid will receive almost $25 million, and the remaining $9 million will be split by the three whistleblowers who brought the issue to light.
According to the False Claims Act, which was law used by plaintiffs to initiate the lawsuits back in 2003 and 2004, citizens who know about fraud can sue on behalf of the federal government and share in the settlement. According to a BusinessWeek article, about $3 billion has been recovered since January 2009.
While it is great that a pharmaceutical company was actually held responsible for fraud, it is questionable why the vast majority of the settlement money ends up in the hands of the federal government. After all, is it not the people against whom the crime was committed that deserve the money?
Unfortunately, it seems as though the same federal government that usually lets Big Pharma slide because of monetary kickbacks, is the same entity that hits the jackpot by prosecuting them. So either way, it is a win-win situation for the corrupt federal agencies that are the enemies of health freedom.
In a fair world, drug company lawsuit settlements would be evenly distributed back to the public, rather than merely be shifted from one corrupt organization to another.