Product News and Recalls

Johnson & Johnson reaches deal with prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson & Johnson and federal prosecutors have reached a settlement over allegations that the company illegally marketed its antipsychotic drug Risperdal and other medications.

That settlement will reportedly be about $2.2 billion, and include about $400 million in criminal fines.

But the settlement won’t be the end of Johnson & Johnson’s legal troubles. It’s still facing thousands of lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging that the company’s DePuy Orthopaedics artificial hip joints and transvaginal mesh implants caused injury or death.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal would be one of the largest drug-marketing settlements in history, but will preserve Johnson & Johnson’s ability to sell its products to government health programs like Medicare. The final sum isn’t yet confirmed, and will depend on which states suing Johnson & Johnson sign on to the agreement.

Under federal law, drug makers can market medicines only for uses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though doctors can prescribe drugs for unapproved, or off-label, uses. Companies settle investigations into illegal marketing to avoid losing the ability to sell drugs to government health programs like Medicare if found guilty.

But many public health advocates have complained that even the largest settlement amounts don’t discourage the illegal practices, because companies simply treat them as the cost of doing business.

That’s a particular concern with Johnson & Johnson, which has a history of unethical practices.

In the case of DePuy Orthopaedics hip implants, internal documents indicate that company officials were aware that the devices had a high early failure rate and a tendency to shed toxic metal debris in patients’ bodies. But Johnson & Johnson intentionally marketed them for years before those problems obliged the company to initiate a recall in 2010.

And the company is still marketing its transvaginal mesh implants, which are used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Thousands of reports have surfaced of the devices eroding in patients’ bodies, causing severe chronic pain, infection, organ perforation and even death.

You should consult with a doctor if you have any ongoing symptoms or health concerns from a transvaginal mesh or metal-on-metal hip implant. If you have significant injuries, you should also consult with a DePuy hip or transvaginal mesh lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

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