On January third, I wrote that major pharmaceutical companies—Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, to name just three—purposely market their atypical antipsychotic medications for use in nursing homes, specifically to dose nursing home residents without dementia-related psychosis. The "off-label" marketing of these dangerous drugs chemically controls residents--you'll see them strapped into their wheelchairs, helpless and unattended, drug-addled, seemingly comatose.
The blog (http://tinyurl.com/yl3ycd7) attracted a lot of attention, most of it negative. Here’s an example, written by a nursing home aide, who fumed, “I have worked in senior housing for the past 10 years, started as an aide and worked my way up. I am disgusted by the way you and other critics like you bash nursing homes. . . . As far as risperadol (sic) and the like it can truly be a godsend to the resedent (sic). Those kinds of drugs are administered as a last resort. . . We do not medicate them to keep them quiet, thats rediculous (sic).”
I’d followed a trial last year that involved a claim by a Johnson & Johnson employee that she’d been fired for complaining about the firm’s “off-label” marketing of Risperdal. The trial testimony indicated that Johnson & Johnson had advised doctors to prescribe the drug to children and patients with bipolar disorder (http://tinyurl.com/yk3z5ot).
But I’ll admit that I was completely unprepared for today’s headline, less than two weeks after my original post: “J&J Nursing Home Kickback Scheme Tripled Risperdal Sales, (Department of Justice) Alleges.”
The lawsuit claims that Johnson & Johnson paid tens of millions of dollars to “Omicare,” a firm that jumped Risperdal and other drugs to the top of its prescribing lists. As a result, “Omnicare’s annual purchases of J&J drugs increased from approximately $100 million to over $280 million, with annual purchases of Risperdal alone rising to over $100 million.”
If the alleged kickback scheme wasn’t enough, how about this: according to the suit, Omnicare initiated “ReView,” described as a “health management” program to identify nursing home patients for whom additional drugs could be prescribed. The suit states:
“In a memorandum to Omnicare’s Chief Executive Officer, Omnicare’s Senior Vice President of Professional Services and Purchasing referred to the ReView program as the ‘one extra (prescription) per patient (ReView) program.”
Critics are claiming that ReView might be responsible for the 67 different drugs that one Omnicare patient received from the company. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/yae3po9)