Risperdal Kickback Case: J&J Tried to Freeze Out Lilly; 72% Market Share Not Good Enough!

Last Updated Jan 20, 2010 6:56 AM EST

How did Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)'s relationship with nursing home pharmacy provider Omnicare become the target of Justice Department allegations that it was based on kickbacks? Here's one possible answer: Greed.

According to J&J's internal documents, the company appeared to have borrowed the credo of Gore Vidal (pictured): "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

The documents -- filed as part of the a DOJ complaint that alleges J&J's rebates to Omnicare for drugs such as the antipsychotic Risperdal were illegal kickbacks that artificially increased Omnicare's annual purchases of J&J drugs from approximately $100 million to more than $280 million -- show that simply being the top seller in Omnicare's massive network of nursing home pharmacies was not enough. The company apparently wanted its rivals -- such as Eli Lilly (LLY)'s Zyprexa -- frozen out.

In a letter from Omnicare svp Tim E. Bien to J&J long term care account director Bruce Cummins, Omnicare expressed how "angry" it was over J&J pressuring Omnicare to end its $4 million contract with Lilly. Bien wrote:

Your statement was:

"We want to see the contractual agreement with Zyprexa to end. We remain firm in this position."

Bien noted that J&J's position was the equivalent of Omnicare asking J&J to end its relationships with all other pharmacies -- completely untenable. He then reminded J&J that Omnicare was spending $173 million a year on J&J products, and only $127 million on the nearest competitor. Also:
Risperdal has over a 30-point market share advantage in Rx's compared to Zyprexa with Omnicare (including all Antipsychotics).
Risperdal had a 72.3 percent market share, Bien said:
Therefore, I am angry by Janssen's stance [Janssen is J&J's Risperdal unit]. We all need to keep in mind the very successful relationship we have built together.
Download Bien's letter to Cummins here.