As the Risperdal marketing trial grinds on in Texas, a whistleblower took the stand to testify he was fired for raising questions. Allen Jones, who leveled allegations of mismarketing against Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) in a 2004 lawsuit, said he started to dig into company payments to a Pennsylvania pharmacist that ended up in an unregistered account.
The pharmacist, Steven Fiorello, was serving on a Pennsylvania state committee weighing new guidelines for antipsychotic drug use. Fiorello has since been convicted on felony conflict-of-interest charges for taking payments from drugmakers, including J&J's Janssen unit and Pfizer ($PFE), Bloomberg reports. "The account was used to deposit money from drug companies," Jones said (as quoted by the news service). "There were real problems here. On many levels, the account was improper."
Jones said he tracked payments from Janssen to support the spread of Texas guidelines favoring atypical antipsychotics, including Risperdal, known as the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, or TMAP. In the process, he discovered "a real red flag," he said: Janssen employees told him the payments in Fiorello's account weren't backed up by a grant request, and they were unaware of the check issued to the pharmacist. His boss told him: "Stay away from the drug companies, stay away from TMAP."
J&J denies all wrongdoing in the Texas case. It's the latest Risperdal suit to go to trial and comes at a time when the company is reportedly negotiating a settlement of marketing claims with the U.S. Justice Department and several states.
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