J&J subsidiaries to pay government for alleged Topamax promotion

BOSTON Two subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson will pay more than $81 million to the federal government over alleged illegal promotion of an epilepsy drug, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations announced Friday that Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Boston to one misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act for promoting the epilepsy drug Topamax (topiramate) for uses not approved by the FDA.

U.S. Magistrate-Judge Robert Collings sentenced the company to pay a criminal fine of $6.14 million. Another J&J subsidiary, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, will pay $75.37 to resolve civil allegations under the False Claims Act that it illegally promoted Topamax and cause false claims to be submitted to government healthcare programs for psychiatric uses that the programs did not cover.

In the case of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, the company allegedly hired outside physicians to accompany sales representatives on sales calls to healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, through its “Doctor for a Day Program,” and promoted Topamax for psychiatric uses, even though it had never applied for approval of the drug for treating psychiatric conditions.

“We take the investigation and the settlement very seriously, and we’re fully committed to meeting the requirements of the agreement,” a Ortho-McNeil-Janssen spokesman told Drug Store News.

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