Virginia Joins Suit Alleging that Johnson & Johnson Paid Kickbacks to Steer Nursing Home Prescriptions for Anti-Psychotics

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The Commonwealth of Virginia joined a federal lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson paid tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks to get its drugs, especially the powerful antipsychotic Risperdal, prescribed in nursing homes. The case was initiated by a pharmacist whistleblower, who filed suit under Virginia's False Claims Act and similar federal and state "qui tam" laws. Last January, the United States Department of Justice also joined the qui tam relator's case by filing a complaint detailing evidence that Johnson & Johnson allegedly paid tens of millions of dollars to buy influence at Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes.

The Commonwealth of Virginia joined a federal lawsuit today contending that pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson paid pharmacies kickbacks to steer nursing home patients to the anti-psychotic Risperdal®. The Johnson & Johnson case was initiated by a Chicago pharmacist, Bernard Lisitza, who alleged he was fired after he challenged the kickbacks and other improper practices. Lisitza filed suit under Virginia's False Claims Act, which encourages witnesses to report kickbacks and other Medicaid frauds to the Attorney General. The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts (No. 07-10288-RGS).

Last January, the United States Department of Justice also joined Lisitza's case by filing a complaint contending that Johnson & Johnson paid tens of millions of dollars for Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes, to push sales of Risperdal® to mentally-ill patients. The complaint extensively quotes internal company documents indicating that pharmacists' recommendations were allegedly for sale. For example, a Johnson & Johnson presentation reported Omnicare pharmacists in nursing homes were "highly motivated based on economics," which depended "less on net costs [to payers], and more on quality of product and 'spread' (their margin)."

Michael I. Behn, lawyer for the pharmacist Lisitza, praised Virginia's action. "Virginia has been at the forefront of national Medicaid fraud prosecutions for years," said Behn. "This case highlights the Attorney General's commitment to protecting Virginia patients and taxpayers from corporate payoffs designed to illegally influence health care." Virginia's Medicaid fraud cases are investigated and prosecuted by the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which has recovered millions for Virginia taxpayers through its efforts.

The complaint, internal company documents attached as exhibits, and other court documents can be found on the reference website

In November of 2009, Omnicare paid the government nearly $100 million to settle allegations in Lisitza's case and other whistleblower actions claiming the pharmacy had committed Medicaid fraud through various kickback schemes, including the Risperdal® payments from Johnson & Johnson. (District of Massachusetts, No. 07-10026-RGS).

Lisitza has been represented by nationally recognized whistleblower lawyers, Behn and Linda Wyetzner, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered in Chicago, Illinois. Lisitza's action is a "qui tam" suit filed under Virginia's False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud, known as "relators," to help the government recover ill-gotten gains. False Claims Acts allow the federal and state governments to collect up to three times the amount defrauded, in addition to civil penalties. Behn noted that qui tam relators can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the governments' recovery.

The Johnson & Johnson case is another successful Medicaid fraud qui tam case handled by Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered. In 2006, Omnicare settled another qui tam by the Chicago pharmacist relator Lisitza that recovered nearly $50 million for the Virginia, the United States and 42 other states (Northern District of Illinois, 01-C-7433). In 2008, Behn & Wyetzner represented the pharmacist whistleblower in a $37 million Medicaid fraud settlement with CVS pharmacies (03 C 744), and the pharmacist whistleblower in a $35 million Medicaid fraud settlement with Walgreens pharmacies (03 C 742). Each of these cases were filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois.

Behn & Wyetzner have also handled significant defense procurement fraud cases. In 2009, the firm represented Chicago whistleblowers in a $15.5 qui tam settlement with advertising agency Leo Burnett for alleged fraud in Army procurement contracts . The False Claims Act case was filed for the relators in the United States District Court in Chicago, Illinois (04 C 3897). In 2004, Behn represented the qui tam relators in a defense procurement fraud case that resulted in Northrop Grumman paying $134 million to resolve claims involving the B-2 "Stealth" bomber - one of the largest False Claims Act qui tam settlements in Chicago federal court (89 C 6111). Behn also represented the American Association of Retired Persons ("AARP") in a case upholding the constitutionality of Illinois' False Claims Act before the state's Supreme Court. (Illinois No. 97023)

Visit, a reference Web site for pharmacy fraud and pharmacist whistleblowers just updated with material and filed documents relating to the Johnson & Johnson, Omnicare, CVS and Walgreens qui tam whistleblower cases. Included are filed documents, fraud allegations, applicable federal laws, and information about the experienced qui tam whistleblower attorneys from Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered who handled the Johnson & Johnson case and other whistleblower cases.

About Pharmacists: As front line professionals responsible for dispensing medications to Medicaid beneficiaries, pharmacists are particularly well suited to discover and report Medicaid fraud as qui tam relators, which is clear from the Johnson & Johnson, Omnicare, Walgreens, CVS cases as reported on the website.

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Michael Behn