J&J to pay $158M in Risperdal case
Allen Jones used to work for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and his job was to look into wrongdoing. An investigator for the state's Office of Inspector General, Jones uncovered payments from pharmaceutical companies to state officials in exchange for favorable treatment of their antipsychotic drugs in state medical programs.
Allen Jones used to work for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and his job was to look into wrongdoing.
An investigator for the state's Office of Inspector General, Jones uncovered payments from pharmaceutical companies to state officials in exchange for favorable treatment of their antipsychotic drugs in state medical programs.
Jones said he got fired for doing his job. That was in June 2004.
On Thursday, Jones learned he will share in $158 million that global pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay to the state of Texas, Jones, and the federal government for overcharging Medicaid and for illegally promoting its antipsychotic drug Risperdal, including for use in children.
"There was total subversion of science by the company," Jones said Thursday in a phone interview from Austin, Texas, where a jury had been hearing evidence in a trial that started Jan. 10. "There were many trials with negative information that the company completely buried. They did not forward it to the FDA. They denied it even existed. Then, on a state-by-state level, they infiltrated the mental-health delivery system."
Jones' investigation in Pennsylvania led him to Texas, whose attorney general joined the suit in 2006.
The Texas case was just one of dozens of court cases involving Risperdal. J&J and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. subsidiary, which makes the drug, are in New Brunswick, N.J., and nearby Titusville. (Sister company Janssen Biotech is in Horsham, Montgomery County.)
"Janssen is committed to ethical business practices and has policies in place to ensure its products are only promoted for their FDA-approved indications," Janssen Pharmaceuticals spokeswoman Teresa Mueller said via e-mail.
J&J sold $4.5 billion of Risperdal in 2007, but sales of the tablet declined after it lost patent protection late that year. The newer, longer-acting injectable version, Risperdal Consta, had $1.5 billion in sales in 2010, according to J&J.
The company was accused of overstating the benefit, downplaying the considerable risks, and paying state officials to give Risperdal preference in state programs. Stephen Fiorello, a former pharmacy director for the Pennsylvania Welfare Department, was convicted of three felonies.
J&J, which still has a Risperdal case pending with Pennsylvania, was ordered to pay $327 million in South Carolina and $258 million in Louisiana, but it is appealing both judgments.
Texas sought $579 million, but this was the largest Medicaid fraud settlement in state history and attorneys were leery of the conservative state appeals court.
"That was a very significant consideration," said Jones' attorney, Thomas M. Melsheimer.
J&J's legal team has dozens of individual civil cases and a federal criminal probe ongoing in Philadelphia.
The complex-litigation section of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court handles mass tort litigation, including 63 Risperdal cases. Stephen Sheller's Philadelphia firm is leading the plaintiffs in that effort, and he has asked the judge involved to allow evidence his firm collected to be presented to the FDA in hopes of getting Risperdal removed from the market.
"Children are at a higher risk for adverse events than adults," Sheller said.
Meanwhile, J&J said in SEC filings that it was negotiating with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia to settle accusations related to promotion of Risperdal for unapproved uses.
"There are ongoing discussions with the federal government on other matters pertaining to Risperdal," Janssen's Mueller said Thursday.
A spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment.
Melsheimer, Jones' attorney, told The Inquirer in 2006 that Jones could get 15 percent to 25 percent of a settlement, but the specific slice of the $158 million had not been decided Thursday.
In the first 21/2 years after he was fired, Jones worked as a brick and stone mason. Since the Texas case was filed, he has been paid consulting fees by other plaintiffs' attorneys. Asked about involvement in the federal case in Philadelphia, Jones said: "If I was involved in a case that had not been completed, I would not be able to discuss it."