Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, recently phoned up Johnson & Johnson, a large drug maker, asking them to help get more people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act health insurance program.
According to the New York Times, she also rang up Ascension Health, a large Roman Catholic health care system and Kaiser Permanente, the health insurance plan.
These two groups, along with Johnson & Johnson are regulated by her Dept. of Health and Human Services. She did not ask them directly for money but urged them to support a non-profit group called Enroll America who is raising money to help get people signed up for Obamacare.
On the surface it all looks friendly, but the selection of Johnson & Johnson might be unfortunate.
This company has a very poor ethics track record in marketing their psychiatric drug products. The Affordable Care Act mandates the necessity for mental health screenings, training of community health center staff in spotting mental health problems in patients, and vastly increases the insurance coverage to pay for treating mental health.
As psychiatry’s treatment of mental health revolves around one or several psychiatric drug prescriptions per patient, Johnson & Johnson might be very pleased to answer the call from the Department of Health and Human Services. The more healthcare signups rise, the higher the profits climb.
A summary of Johnson & Johnson’s history in the courts proves that this is not a cynical view of the company:
- May 2010 – Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) pleaded guilty in federal court to misdemeanor charges of marketing a drug for unapproved uses.
The guilty plea came as part of a larger, $81-million settlement signed by J&J to settle government allegations that it illegally marketed its anti-seizure drug Topamax for the treatment of conditions including bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol addiction. (In 2008, Johnson & Johnson had $2.7 billion in Topamax sales.)
- · January 2010, whistleblowers, state attorneys general, and the Department of Justice filed a Risperdal lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson based on the False Claims Act. The government claimed that between 1999 and 2004 Johnson & Johnson paid $50 million in kickbacks to a pharmaceutical supply company, Omnicare, to sell Risperdal to nursing homes. The kickbacks appeared as payments to Omnicare for sham services, and Omnicare used the money to initiate programs aimed at convincing doctors to prescribe Risperdal to nursing home residents.
- 8 June 2012 Johnson & Johnson said it would add about $600 million to its reserves to cover a possible settlement of allegations that it paid kickbacks in 2010 to Omnicare to get that company to buy more of J&J’s schizophrenia drugs Risperdal and Invega for dispensing in nursing homes…
· In 2010 A lawsuit was filed against the J&J executives in New Jersey federal court. In July 2012 Johnson & Johnson agreed to a settlement of $2.2 billion to resolve this federal investigation into the company’s marketing practices. This included “a roughly $400 million criminal fine for the illegal promotion of the antipsychotic Risperdal.” It’s been well documented that Johnson & Johnson confidentially paid psychiatrists such as Harvard’s Joseph Biederman to promote adult drugs such as the powerful antipsychotic drug Risperdal for children. The company had ghost-written at least one of the Harvard professor’s “scientific” articles.
- · August 2011 Massachusetts filed suit against J&J claiming the drug company promoted Risperdal for off-label uses and failed to disclose serious Risperdal side effects including diabetes and an increased risk of death in elderly patients.
- · 2011 South Carolina secured a judgment against J&J for $347 million—an amount that included $4,000 for each of 7,142 letters the drug company sent to South Carolina doctors for marketing purposes.
- · January 2012 J&J settled a Risperdal fraud lawsuit brought by Texas on behalf of its Medicaid program for $158 million.
Johnson & Johnson just keeps on paying the fines and selling the drugs.
They are no longer the friendly Bandaid brand of the 1950’s medicine closet. J&J has become a serious marketer of deadly psychiatric drugs while creating a façade of beauty and compassion on their website. It is the height of hypocrisy for Johnson & Johnson to market their products “For All You Love” using wonderful photos of mothers, grandmothers and babies. Risperdal has nothing to do with love.
Kathleen Sebelius either doesn’t know the history of Johnson & Johnson in the courts or doesn’t care. Apparently, Obamacare and its mental health “benefits” must be implemented at any cost.