Sometimes some of the scariest news I read is in the business section. This morning, for example, “Johnson & Johnson accused of paying kickbacks, Federal case involves drugs in nursing homes.”
I am getting more and more anti-drug. Or maybe I should say anti-pharma. When I watch television I have to hit the mute button during all the pharmaceutical ads just to drown out the “fine speak,” the hurried, monotone spiel informing consumers of all the possible side effects of the wonder drugs they are trying to promote. What really torques me is that a lot of the time they don’t even say what the drug is supposed to do for you, but inform you to “ask your doctor if it might be right for you.” How many people ask doctors about drugs to treat conditions they don’t even have? Probably more than I would be willing to admit, and those people trust their doctors, don’t they. And they trust their pharmacists to give them the straight dope, right?
The country’s largest dispenser of prescription drugs to nursing homes is Omnicare. Omnicare pharmacists are accused of taking kickback money from Johnson & Johnson (parent company of Ortho-McNeil Janssen) during the period of 1999 to 2004, to push it’s powerfully sedating schizophrenia drug, Risperdal. During this period, J&J drug sales through Omnicare jumped from $100 million to $280 million, over a third of that coming from the sale of Risperdal . Risperdal now carries this warning:
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION FOR RISPERDAL
Elderly Patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with atypical antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death compared to placebo. RISPERDAL (risperidone) is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis.
How many nursing home patients died while Omnicare billed Medicare and Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars for J&J drugs? Talk about death panels. At the very least it amounts to elder abuse, chemical restraint of grandpa, cranky as his is, or used to be.
And all this comes to light because of cases filed on behalf of whistelblowers. Omnicare is walking away, paying a $98 million settlement. 98 million dollars! In a statement from Omnicare, the settlement “does not include any finding of wrongdoing or any admission of liability by Omnicare.” They said it “denies the contentions of the federal government” and said it agreed to the settlement “in order to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation.”
And right next to this article in the morning paper, still in the business section mind you, is “Johnson & Johnson widens product recall,” about Tylenol related drugs and other products that are making people sick. From some chemical used to treat wooden pallets? That leaches into the air? From a facility in Puerto Rico? WTF? Johnson & Johnson… this is the company that people trust their babies with. I’m not surprised, not anymore, but it makes me damn sick.