Johnson & Johnson is being dropped from a whistleblower lawsuit accusing it of promoting its HIV/AIDS drugs for off-label purposes and other wrongdoing, but most of the same claims against subsidiary company Janssen can move ahead, a federal judge ruled.
According to the New Jersey Law Journal, New Jersey federal Judge Michael Shipp granted and denied parts of J&J’s motion to dismiss the whistleblower case by releasing the drug giant from the suit but allowing allegations against its Belgium-based Janssen subsidiary to stand.
Judge Shipp said that J&J was off the hook because “mere ownership of a subsidiary does not justify imposition of liability on the parent.”
The lawsuit was filed by a group of whistleblowers under the False Claims Act who accuse both companies of violating the federal False Claims Act, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, and various state anti-fraud laws, the New Jersey Law Journal reported.
The whistleblower lawsuit centers on J&J’s and Janssen’s alleged misconduct in pushing their HIV/AIDS drugs in unlawful ways in order to boost profits from Medicare and Medicaid billings. The plaintiffs claim that:
- The companies coaxed physicians to prescribe the drug for unapproved uses, which significantly increased their revenue from Medicare and Medicaid.
- The companies falsely marketed Prezista as a “lipid neutral” drug that would not adversely impact a patient’s cholesterol or triglyceride levels when the drug has been linked to cardiovascular disease.
- J&J and Janssen held dinners for physicians to persuade them to prescribe the drugs, planted people in the audience to ask certain questions, and encouraged physicians to prescribe the drugs unnecessarily and bill Medicare and Medicaid for those prescriptions.
- Paid “Speakers at the dinners and other symposia … based on the number of prescriptions written for the drugs, the lawsuit claims,” according to the New Jersey Law Journal.
The whistleblower complaint, in which the federal government declined to intervene, accuses the companies of conducting a “broad scheme to mislead physicians” and asserts that J&J and Janssen are “companies with a long history of prior misconduct involving off-label promotions of its drugs.”