Texas AG: Big Pharma Bribes Forced Teens To Be Fraudulently Medicated

Texas AG: Big Pharma Bribes Forced Teens To Be Fraudulently Medicated

Texas attorney general has filed charges against Big Pharma for bribing officials to implement an elaborate scheme to fraudulently diagnose and medicate teenagers for mental illness.

According to a former Pennsylvania Inspector General’s Agent, a pharmaceutical industry-sponsored teen mental health program was created with the “cold-blooded and cold-hearted intent to recruit more children into a very subjective diagnosis of mental illness and to treat those kids with medication.” The whistleblower’s allegations have drawn the attention of the Texas Attorney General who has sued pharma giant Johnson & Johnson regarding its involvement with the program and alleged improper Medicaid payments of over half a billion dollars, including allegations that J&J illegally paid a Texas State official to help promote the program. A jury convened this week to hear the case and — according to a report by Bloomberg yesterday— heard testimony that a Medical Director for the Texas Dept. of Mental Health and Mental Retardation received money and trips to promote the program targeted at teens that may have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulent Medicaid payments for Risperadal.

Former Inspector General Agent: TeenScreen Is “Dragnet for Pharmaceutical Industry”

Bloomberg reports:

Steven Shon accepted honorariums to fly to Arizona, Florida and New Jersey to discuss Texas guidelines developed in 1999 advising doctors that a newer class of drugs like Risperdal were a “first choice or option” for schizophrenia, he testified today in state court in Austin. Texas is suing J&J, saying the company fraudulently promoted Risperdal and overbilled Medicaid by at least $579 million.

State lawyers say Janssen’s payments to Shon were part of a scheme to influence development of the guidelines, known as the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, or TMAP, and tout them as a model for other states trying to advise doctors on prescribing drugs. Shon was asked how often he went around the U.S. to talk to other states about the TMAP.

“I would say once or twice a month for a period of several years,” Shon said in a video deposition shown to jurors on the trial’s second day of testimony. “I knew that Janssen paid for a substantial number of those trips.”

Texas also claims that New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, the world’s largest health-care products company, defrauded the state Medicaid program by promoting Risperdal for uses not approved by U.S. regulators, including for children with psychiatric disorders. The state joined a lawsuit filed by a whistle-blower, Allen Jones, a former investigator for the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General.

To report Medicaid or Medicare fraud, contact Frohsin & Barger.

See Also: Texas AG: Big Pharma Bribes Forced Teens To Be Fraudulently Medicated

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