US authorities probe marketing of J&J drugs

Johnson & Johnson is under investigation by US authorities over marketing, rebates and payment support programmes, according to documents filed with the financial regulator.

Already facing a string of legal cases claiming a link between its talcum powder and ovarian cancer, J&J now faces a slew of legal demands relating to the marketing of its arthritis, hepatitis, and psoriasis drugs.

In quarterly documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, J&J said its Janssen pharmaceuticals unit in January received a demand from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) relating to sales and marketing practices of its Olysio hepatitis C drug.

Then in February the US Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts asked J&J for records relating to payments to any charity providing assistance to Medicare payments.

In March Janssen received a demand from the DoJ regarding a False Claims Act investigation into management and advisory services provided to rheumatology and gastroenterology practices that purchased inflammatory diseases drugs Remicade and Simponi Aria.

And last month J&J received a subpoena from the Massachusetts attorney’s office, asking for documents relating to pharmaceutical copayment support programmes for Olysio, Simponi and psoriasis drug Stelara.

J&J, which last week lost a $110 million legal case linking its talcum powder with ovarian cancer, is not the only pharma company to face questions about links with charities.

It is illegal in the US for pharma companies to link products with charities and offer copayment subsidies to patients with government-backed insurance such as Medicare.

The suspicion is that donations to these charities help to prop up pharma’s own high prices.

In February the Massachusetts attorney office asked Pfizer for information related to the Patient Access Network Foundation and other organisations providing financial assistance to Medicare patients.

Other drugmakers probed by Massachusetts officials over their links with charities include Gilead, Biogen and Jazz.

The investigations indicate the growing concern among US authorities over drug pricing, although President Trump’s promised crackdown on drug pricing has not yet materialised.

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