Johnson & Johnson agrees to $2.2 billion settlement over Justice Department Risperdal lawsuit

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by Jim Orr

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by the Justice Department over the company’s promotion of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. According to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson illegally promoted Risperdal for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, despite knowing that these treatments could increase the risk of fatality for patients who were treated with the drug.

Under federal law, drug companies are prohibited from promoting their products for “off-label” uses that have not been approved by the FDA. According to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals division promoted Risperdal for the treatment of elderly patients with dementia—a treatment not allowed by FDA rules—even though studies had shown that this could increase the risk of death. The settlement also resolved charges against Johnson & Johnson regarding another antipsychotic drug, Invega, and a heart-failure medication known as Natrecor.

The $2.2 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest ever reached by the Justice Department in a lawsuit filed against a drug company. In 2012, the Justice Department reached a $3 billion settlement with GlaxoSmithKline over its sale of the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin and the diabetes drug Avandia. In 2009, the agency also reached a $2.3 billion settlement with Pfizer that resolved a criminal investigation over the company’s drug promotion schemes.

Qui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuits Help to Expose Corporate Wrongdoing

The Justice Department lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson was filed with the assistance of several whistleblowers who helped to expose misconduct on the part of the company. As with similar lawsuits filed against GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, whistleblowers in the case were able to provide federal authorities with evidence of how Johnson & Johnson illegally promoted Risperdal and other drugs to doctors, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in Medicaid prescriptions.

Under a federal law known as the False Claims Act, whistleblowers who help to expose fraud against federal agencies eligible to receive a portion of any settlement recovered by the government. Known as “qui tam” lawsuits, these cases filed on behalf of federal agencies have helped to expose countless instances of corporate fraud by drugmakers and other companies, and to recover billions of dollars in fraudulent earnings for taxpayers.

Individuals who have been witness to fraud committed against federal agencies by a corporation may be eligible to file a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit and receive a portion of any funds recovered by the government. The first step in filing a qui tam lawsuit it to secure the services of an experienced attorney who can help with your case.

The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson has received the highest possible rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the top law firm rating service in the U.S. Each of our partners—Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson—have been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the State of Texas for several years in a row.* Together, our attorneys have helped to achieve verdicts and settlements for our clients totaling more than $200 million—including more than $50 million in 2010 alone.

To speak with an attorney about your case and to find out if you qualify to file a whistleblower lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2013.