How Risperdal Whistle-Blowers Made Millions From J&J ?

According to Bloomberg,

Judy Doetterl was a sales representative for Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) in 2004 when federal agents placed a hidden recording device on her and sent her to tape marketing presentations at a national company sales meeting.

U.S. prosecutors wanted to prove claims by Doetterl and others that J&J boosted sales by urging doctors to prescribe its antipsychotic drug Risperdal far beyond its approved use. Doetterl, then earning $150,000 a year, said she fretted for the two days she wore a wire at the meeting in a Dallas hotel.

“I was concerned that I would be found out accidentally and someone would see me go into a room to meet the agent,” Doetterl said. “I had to change battery packs every four hours. I knew in the end I was doing the right thing. They needed to know what was going on.”

The government spent nine more years investigating Risperdal before J&J, the world’s biggest seller of health-care products, agreed Nov. 4 to pay $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil probes. Doetterl, prosecutors and other lawyers offered an inside account of a decade-long probe that ended with eight J&J whistle-blowers making more than $20 million each.

The U.S. said J&J marketed Risperdal and two other drugs for off-label uses and paid kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists to boost sales. J&J’s Janssen unit pleaded guilty to misbranding Risperdal. The company also settled civil lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act, which lets citizens file sealed complaints on behalf of the government and share in any recovery.

Six Whistle-Blowers

Doetterl and four other former J&J employees filed such cases. They will each get about $29 million from the U.S. and state governments that claimed they overpaid through Medicare or Medicaid because of J&J’s practices. A sixth whistle-blower, Allen Jones, got $20.3 million last year when J&J paid $158 million to settle with Texas over Risperdal.

Two other whistle-blowers — Joseph Strom, who sued over marketing of the drug Natrecor, and Bernard Lisitza, who alleged kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. (OCR), a nursing home pharmacy — will get about $28 million each, according to the Justice Department. Whistle-blowers typically pay their lawyers about one-third of their award and pay taxes on the rest.

In settling the case, J&J signed a five-year corporate integrity agreement with the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. J&J has “robust compliance programs that have been continually strengthened,” according to a company statement on Nov. 4.

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