Chicago whistleblower brings attention to pharmaceutical kickbacks

November 5, 2013

Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski)
Chicago whistleblower exposes Johnson & Johnson kickback deals for prescription drugs.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has agreed to settle Medicaid fraud claims filed by a Chicago whistleblower.

Bernard Lisitza worked as a pharmacist for Omnicare. It’s one of the largest pharmacy supplying drugs to nursing homes. Lisitza noticed Johnson & Johnson was paying kickbacks to Omnicare for switching nursing home patients from their anti-psychotic drugs to Johnson & Johnson’s product Risperdal.

Lisitza reported this to management more than 10 years ago, and was allegedly fired for it.

“When he told Omnicare that he didn’t think this was right what Johnson & Johnson was doing, he never heard of the False Claims Act. Who knows about the False Claims Act? He did it because it was the right thing to do,” said attorney Linda Wyetzner, who represents Lisitza.

Under the False Claims Act, a person with knowledge of an allegation can help the government recover illegally obtained government funds.

According to the feds, the kickbacks drove Omnicare’s sale of Risperdal from $100 million in 1999 to $280 million in 2004.

In 2009, Omnicare settled the allegations by paying $98 million. Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $149 million to settle the claims.

Lisitza also filed similar complaints involving Walgreens and CVS.

Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her @soosieon