J&J slapped with HHS subpoena on Nucynta marketing

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) marketing is under the U.S. microscope again. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the feds issued a subpoena for information about J&J's Nucynta promotions, in the government's latest probe of potentially improper drug marketing.

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general, the subpoena is looking for documents and information about sales, marketing and promotional activities on two formulations of Nucynta, an opioid pain reliever. The subpoena specifically mentions payments to doctors, which usually means investigators are looking into potential kickbacks. And it asks for study data on Nucynta's safety, plus any reports or complaints of side effects, the WSJ notes.

A J&J spokeswoman told the Journal that the company is cooperating with the requests.

J&J has experience with subpoenas about its drug marketing. The company is still in the process of wrapping up a years-long investigation into its Risperdal marketing, with the amount of the settlement estimated at more than $2 billion at last report. The company has also disclosed federal inquiries about its marketing of the antibiotic Doribax.

Nor is J&J alone in facing new scrutiny from government watchdogs. Just last month, Novartis ($NVS) disclosed a U.S. Attorney's office demand for information about its multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya, including marketing and payments to doctors. And Forest Laboratories ($FRX) in May disclosed a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, seeking information about its marketing of the newly approved lung treatment Tudorza Pressair.

A lineup of the world's biggest drugmakers have paid enormous fines and civil penalties to settle other marketing violations and allegations, from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Pfizer's ($PFE) multibillion-dollar deals on down. Last week, Pfizer's Wyeth unit pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $491 million to resolve a Rapamune marketing investigation.

- read the WSJ article (sub. req.)

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