Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries have agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations of promoting three prescription drugs for off-label uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Justice announced today. The allegations include paying kickbacks to physicians and pharmacies to recommend and prescribe Risperdal and Invega, both antipsychotic drugs, and Natrecor, which is used to treat heart failure. The figure includes $1.72 billion in civil settlements with federal and state governments, as well as $485 million in criminal fines and forfeited profits.
The agreement is the third-largest US settlement involving a drugmaker, and the latest in a string of legal actions against drug companies allegedly putting profits ahead of patients. In recent years, the government has cracked down on the industry's aggressive marketing tactics, which include pushing medicines for unapproved uses. While doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for any use, drugmakers cannot promote them in any way that is not approved by FDA. Last year British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline paid a record-setting $3 billion in fines to settle criminal and civil violations involving 10 of its drugs.