Johnson & Johnson, Omnicare, Risperdal, Grandma and big bucks

by on January 16, 2010 · 11 comments

in Health

nursinghomeSometimes 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?

risperdalThe 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:


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.”

babyAnd 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.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh January 16, 2010 at 8:30 pm

and then there are all the anti-depressant drugs.
big pharma down-plays their side effects (they don’t think that having your sex drive disappear is any big deal), the fact that many of the drugs don’t work at all (and they don’t really know why or how they work), some have serious withdrawal issues (effexor) and some (zoloft & others) can actually induce mania. in my perfect world there will be “show trials” for all the big drug co executives and they’ll be sentenced to take their own worst drugs as punishment.


Patty Jones January 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Hey, lost your sex drive? We got a pill for that! But call your doctor if it lasts more than 4 hours, mm’kay?


Dave Gilbert January 17, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Hey, if it’s lasting more than 4 hours, the LAST person I’m calling is my doctor! ;)


Peyton Farquhar January 17, 2010 at 9:50 am

I’ve been anti-Big Pharma for a number of years, however, the sentiment has recently reached epic level starting with the deadly vaccinations pushed by the corporate lapdog FDA, and it’s worldwide counterpart, the WHO. Take a look around for all the information you will ever want or need re: Big Pharma.

Back during the days of polio, et al., medicine was about preventing spreadable diseases. Now it’s just all about making a buck at any cost.


Patty Jones January 17, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Thanks for coming by Peyton, welcome to the Rag!

I’ll never forget a conversation I overheard years ago between a doctor and pillpusher as I sat in an urgent care exam room. The must have thought that no one could hear them, or they just didn’t give a damn if anyone did, but it was the last time I looked at a doctor the same way. Not that I think they’re all “all about the $$$,” but I’m certainly suspect.


annagrace January 17, 2010 at 10:05 am

It is dismaying that the guiding principle of medicine “Do No Harm” is the first casualty of our current health care system which clearly value profits and market shares above all else.

Johnson & Johnson- take a powder.


lane tobias January 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Risperdal can be a very effective treatment for bipolar mania and schizophrenia. But it is mainly effective when someone suffers from extreme psychosis. My guess is that the onset of dementia is actually sped up by the drug….which is why so many elderly people have probably died from it. That is really sad.

Recently, I came across an article (I cant find the link, but google it or something) that talked about how anti-depressants, such as those mentioned by OB Joe above, are largely useless when treating depression in patients who are also undergoing cognitive therapy and/or have quality health care and/or solid social support. The thinking is that drugs like Zoloft or Prozac produce positive results, but those results are generally inevitable due to the patient becoming seemingly more aware of their mental illness and the chemicals at work in their brains. At that point, the drug can be unecessary.

I think part of the bias in that study may also be the general public becoming slightly more skeptical of big-pharma….but if its true, there are literally millions of people out there who are given a pill instead of just being able to TALK to someone about their problems. What a culture we have here!

Thanks for the post Patty.


rak January 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Love the comment about how vague and generic the ad enticements are; as you say, they are often soft-focused about what the drug is supposed to do other than effortlessly and uncomplicatedly make one “better”. Just “ask your doctor” if this is right for you. And as you commented, some physicians are apparently lured to prescribe particular drugs either by some $$ sharing scheme, or just to please a patient who otherwise might just keep looking for a doctor willing to prescribe what’s requested.
I think I’d like to research a bit about the watershed decision to permit drug companies to advertise and with what restrictions. Apparently there’s at least a requirement to list side effects and other warnings. I see permitting ads as essentially an acknowledgement that over and above health care, selling drugs is a business, BIG business. Hey pusherman …


Molly January 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

This is an accounting of the real ‘death panels’! Good job, Patty.


Dickie January 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Patty, this is a great story . . . you really articulated a lot of my feelings about the incredible lack of principle integrity honesty or anything remotely like dedication among the pharmaceutical people . . . The Omnicare story amazed me . . . it is really as bad as I think it is out there!!! And I agree with everybody about those ads on TV . . .
Disclaimer: I self-medicate with pot prevacid aspirin and good fish oils . . . I am not opposed to all “drugs.” The pharmaceutical people throw anything they can make at us and try to get us to buy . . . what we need is to figure out our own best “medicine.”
Write more, Patty. Thanks.


Fred Harrington August 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

I’m sure everyone here can agree that they know of a story or two, where big pharma has had a positive impact on someone’s life. I for one am so selective with what drugs I take when I am ill. I try and keep to natural remedies where possible. I know far too many negative stories.

Great post Patty!


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