Johnson & Johnson appeal denied, kickback case moves on in federal court

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A federal judge has declined to dismiss a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. The healthcare giant now will have to defend itself in court against allegations that it paid illegal kickbacks to influence sale of antipsychotics to nursing home residents.

Johnson & Johnson has been under fire from the U.S. Justice Department for its alleged role in a kickback scheme dating back as far as 1999. According to the Justice Department suit, and an earlier whistleblower suit, Johnson & Johnson paid kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy giant Omnicare Inc. in exchange for increased purchases of the antipsychotic Risperdal. In 2009, Omnicare paid a $98 million settlement to the U.S. government for its role in the scheme.

Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns paves the way for the whistleblower suit to proceed in court. Plaintiff Bernard Lisitza, a former Omincare pharmacist who first filed suit in 2003, is joined in his claim by the state of Indiana and the commonwealths of Virginia and Kentucky. Stearns's decision denied similar claims from the states of Nevada, Illinois and Texas.