Massachusetts joins kickback suit against J&J

The Massachusetts attorney general joined that federal lawsuit accusing Johnson & Johnson of paying kickbacks to push the antipsychotic Risperdal and other drugs into nursing homes. AG Martha Coakley didn't stop there; however, her office is also investigating other companies that market antipsychotics to nursing homes in the state.

At issue is whether drug companies are touting antipsychotic drugs for unapproved uses, such as dementia. The FDA has warned that use of the atypical antipsychotics in elderly dementia patients can increase the risk of death. "The inappropriate off-label marketing of antipsychotic drugs to nursing homes is a significant health and safety issue for our seniors,'' Coakley says in a statement released by her office (as quoted by the Boston Globe). "We have taken strong action on this issue in the past and are continuing to monitor it very closely moving forward.''

The federal lawsuit was filed in January by the U.S. attorney in Boston. It alleges that J&J paid millions of dollars to nursing-home pharmacy provider Omnicare, which in turn would incentivize nursing homes to buy Risperdal. Sales of J&J products to Omnicare almost tripled during that time, to $280 million from $100 million, the suit claims. J&J denies any wrongdoing. Spokeswoman Carol Goodrich told the Globe that "airing the facts will confirm that our conduct, including rebating programs like those the government now challenges, was lawful and appropriate.''

- see the story in the Globe