American pharmaceutical manufacturers Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., both subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to pay more than $81 million to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the off-label promotion of the epilepsy drug Topamax, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced April 29, 2010.
According to the agreement, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $6.14 million criminal fine for the misbranding of Topamax in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Topamax as an anti-epileptic drug, for the treatment of partial onset seizures, but not for any psychiatric use.
The government alleged that Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical promoted the sale of Topamax for off-label psychiatric uses by hiring outside physicians to join sales representatives on their visits to health care providers’ offices, to speak at meetings and dinners about prescribing Topamax for unapproved uses and doses.
In addition to the criminal fine, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals will pay $75.37 million to resolve civil allegations under the False Claims Act that they illegally promoted Topamax and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for a variety of psychiatric uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs. The federal share of the civil settlement is $50,688,483.52, and the state Medicaid share of the civil settlement is $24,681,516.48.
The civil settlement resolves two lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.
For the full press release, go to: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/April/10-civ-500.html. For more information about qui tam law and health care fraud, contact Nolan and Auerbach, PA.