Menard, IL- Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest corporations, and its subsidiaries agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that they paid doctors and pharmacists to push unnecessary and ineffectual psychotropic drugs on nursing home residents and others without taking into consideration the negative effects they would have on the patients who took them.

A large portion of the settlement, $149 million will go to settle allegations that Johnson & Johnson along with subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals gave Omnicare Inc., a long-term care pharmacy, kickbacks to prescribe drugs anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega, to nursing home patients who suffer from dementia , Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

The federal suit alleged that Johnson & Johnson paid Omnicare Inc. the kickback under the pretext of marketing share rebates, data-purchase agreements and “grants” for “educational funding,” Senior Housing News reported. The kickbacks were used to encourage Omnicare and its consultant pharmacists to encourage  nursing homes to use Risperdal on their patients.

The lawsuit also alleged that Johnson & Johnson encouraged the use of Resperdal for dementia patients who suffer from anxiety and depression in spite of the fact the FDA only approved the drug’s use for schizophrenia patients.

Giving elderly patients Risperdal and other unnecessary anxiety medications can put a patient at risk of suffering from a stroke.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in his suit that Johnson & Johnson knowingly recommended these drugs regardless of the “serious health risks.”

“As part of this scheme, the companies allegedly paid kickbacks to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy, whose pharmacists were supposed to be the gatekeepers to provide an independent review of patient medications,” General Eric Holder said in announcing the settlement. “Instead, at the companies’ behest, the pharmacists allegedly recommended Risperdal for nursing home patients who exhibited behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This alleged conduct resulted in government health care programs paying millions of dollars in false claims for these drugs.”

The Justice Department lawsuit also alleged that Johnson & Johnson encourage Omnicare Inc. and other pharmacies to push drugs like Invega, an anti-psychotic and Natrecor, a heart drug, for off label uses.  They allege that the pharmaceutical giant mislead patients and understated the dangers and efficacy of these drugs.

The $2.2 billion settlement is the largest of its kind and is demonstrative of the DOJ’s increased efforts to crackdown on abuse and fraud perpetrated by pharmaceutical companies. Over the past few years, the DOJ has recovered $17 billion from healthcare and pharmaceutical companies under the False Claims Act.

The frivolous use of drugs is a regular occurrence in nursing homes in Illinois and are utilized as an effective way to keep some patients under control. There are some patients who must be “chemically restrained,” because they are combative but the majority of nursing home residents shouldn’t be given these potentially dangerous drugs. This can be seen as neglect or abuse and could get these facilities in trouble, especially if the chemical restraint is used against a patient’s or their families’ wills.