Back in January 2010, the U.S. Justice Department claimed that Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Levaquin and other drugs, paid millions of dollars in kickbacks as a means of influencing pharmacies to carry a lot of its drugs. Some of the drugs listed were the popular antibiotic Levaquin and Risperdal, which is used to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
The complaint against Johnson & Johnson was filed in a Boston court and specifically accused the drug company of illegally paying millions to Omnicare, one of the nation’s largest pharmacies. Omnicare specializes in patients in nursing homes. In return for the money, Omnicare almost tripled its yearly purchase of Johnson & Johnson products, which in turn paid the pharmaceutical company more than $280 million.
Omnicare’s overlarge purchase of Johnson & Johnson drugs wound up pushing up sales of Levaquin to its all-time high, making the drug sell even better than its chief competitor, Cipro. Sales weren’t affected by the negative side effects that were associated with Levaquin, either, including tendon ruptures and tendonitis.
Back in October 2010, Johnson & Johnson went to court, asking the judge to dismiss the complaint and denying that the company ever paid the money to Omnicare. Documents also showed that Johnson & Johnson’s contracts with Omnicare increased how many discounts the pharmaceutical company was receiving for the drugs so long as the drugs kept selling. In addition, Omnicare representatives were accused of going to nursing homes to push the Risperdal personally.
The prosecutor in the case, Greg Shapiro, stated that Johnson & Johnson’s contract with Omnicare specifically stated, “In order to get rebates, you have to go out and push our drugs.’’ Johnson & Johnson officials maintain that the discounts are standard practice with drug pharmacies.
According to William Sarraille, one of Johnson & Johnson attorneys, the government has conceded that there isn’t any proof that any of the patients were harmed by taking the Levaquin or Risperdal. It still leaves the question of whether or not Johnson & Johnson paid any kickbacks.