Acclarent, Inc., the California-based unit of Johnson & Johnson, recently agreed to pay $18 million to settle false Medicare billing claims brought against it by the U.S. Department of Justice. The claims surrounded its marketing and distribution of a drug delivery device which was not approved by the FDA for such use.
While this was a government settlement, it does not overshadow the numerous class-action lawsuits filed against drug manufacturers. In fact, there are so many class-action lawsuits that it can be difficult to keep up. Websites such as DrugLawsuitSource.com help compile all current lawsuits and connect potential plaintiffs with attorneys handling the cases.
Lawsuits and government enforcement are being brought against more than just drug manufacturers. Medical device companies are also in the mix and paying out large settlements. Even companies that make non-prescription drugs are being held accountable, such as recent lawsuits against manufacturers of talcum powder.
The $18 million is chump change for Johnson & Johnson compared to the $2.2 billion settlement it reached in 2013 over its Risperdal product. In fact, there have been many recent settlements in the news that well exceed this amount. In case you missed them, here are some of the most prominent:
- Cephalon agrees to $125 million settlement with Nevada Attorney General over its anticompetitive conduct. It is a multi-state settlement which also involved Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. And Barr Laboratories.
- Pfizer will pay an anticipated $486 million to settle a decade old lawsuit from shareholders related to the drugs Bextra and Celebrex.
- Takeda Pharmaceuticals agrees to pay $2.4 billion to settle class-action lawsuit involving its bladder cancer drug Actos.
- Stryker Corp. agreed to pay more than $1 billion over recalled hip implants from 2012. The settlement works out to approximately $300,000 per claimant.
So why are so many lawsuits still being filed if companies know the problems faced with their products?
According to some, lawsuits and government fines are not doing enough to help protect consumers. An article in the Huffington Post detailed how many cases are settled prior to a verdict, leaving drug companies able to continue the practices which led the lawsuit in the first place. It is only when a ruling, such as that in the Theranos case, against a manufacturer where change can occur. After Theranos was placed under scrutiny, its CEO was finally banned from owning a lab.
The fact that so many people are filing lawsuits shows that there are still problems in the industry. There are currently more than 700 lawsuits that are either certified class actions or are in the process of becoming so. Until changes are made in the industry, we should all expect to see more of these large settlements.