March 14th, 2011
By: Douglas MacIntyre
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched a new website, Saferproducts.gov, the first consumer product database of its kind. The agency says that “Through SaferProducts.gov, consumers, child service providers, health care professionals, government officials, and public safety entities will be able to submit reports of harm (Reports) involving consumer products. Manufacturers (including importers) and private labelers identified in Reports will receive a copy of the Report, and will have the opportunity to comment on them.”
It’s likely that a number of companies will be upset about the new site and its feature that allows consumers to submit forms about unsafe products. Of course, what is “unsafe” will be largely subjective, although the agency will apparently review some comments.
The entire site will not be live until sometime in April. Manufacturers will be allowed to file their own comments about complaints for up to 10 days before the complaints go “live.” This could be a nightmare for large consumer products companies, which may need to wade through scores of complaints. Businesses will have to register with the site to be able to post responses.
The Achilles Heel of the site may be that it is subject to random comments from consumers that are inaccurate or possibly part of campaigns against companies that are unrelated to product flaws.
The site is a good idea, theoretically, but like most every other “open” comment website, abuse by both consumers and companies will be hard to regulate.
January 19, 2010
by David S. Hilzenrath
Medical giant Johnson & Johnson paid tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks to boost sales of its drugs in nursing homes, including an antipsychotic that can be used as a chemical restraint, the Justice Department alleged in a lawsuit Friday.
The payments, sometimes disguised as grants or educational funding, were funneled to Omnicare, a pharmacy company that dispenses drugs in nursing homes and used its influence with doctors to get prescriptions switched, the government said. Johnson & Johnson came to regard Omnicare pharmacists as an extension of its sales force, the government said, citing a company document.
“Kickbacks such as those alleged here distort the judgments of health care professionals and put profits ahead of sound medical treatment,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a news release.
Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said the company looks forward to presenting its evidence in court.
“We believe airing the facts will confirm that our conduct . . . was lawful and appropriate,” she said.
The suit is another in a long series of cases alleging that manufacturers have used illegal inducements to skew medical decisions and promote their products, potentially compromising patient care and inflating medical bills.
Whatever happens with national health-care reform, lawmakers are unlikely to repeal the profit motive, with its potential for ill as well as good.
Johnson & Johnson allegedly caused false or fraudulent claims to be filed with Medicaid, the public health program for the poor and disabled.
Friday’s lawsuit adds to an already tangled web of claims. Omnicare reached a settlement with the government in November, agreeing to pay $98 million. The company denied wrongdoing. At the same time, a Florida drugmaker agreed to pay $14 million, and the government filed claims against two nursing home chains, accusing them of taking kickbacks from Omnicare in return for pharmacy contracts.
Johnson & Johnson allegedly turned to Omnicare to help it build market share. The patients at issue include people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.