Risperdal Payments Result in Conviction for State Meds Official

Last Updated Dec 24, 2008 4:18 PM EST

A Pennsylvania official who took $12,000 in fees and honoraria from Pfizer and Janssen while he was in charge of putting antipsychotics such as Risperdal on the state's dispensary lists for mental hospitals has been convicted of a "felony conflict of interest." Steve Fiorello (pictured), the state's former director of pharmacy for the Office of Mental Health, faces five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

steven-fiorello-250×275.jpgThe news should cause some serious fear among execs at Risperdal marketer Johnson & Johnson (Janssen's parent), who are currently the subject of a lawsuit in Texas over linked claims. In that case, J&J is accused of giving "kickbacks" to Texas officials in order to get Risperdal onto the state Medicaid formulary. Specifically, the complaint says J&J was:

Providing them with trips, perks, travel expenses, honoraria and other payments.
The kickbacks allegedly resulted in Risperdal being placed in a favorable position on the Texas Medical Algorithm Project, which guides when meds are to be used on Medicaid patients. TMAP was then used as a model for other states' formularies and exported, the complaint states. According to the Alliance for Human Research Protection:
He [Fiorello] was instrumental in bringing the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) to PA in the form of PennMAP. This program ensured that the atypical antipsychotics including [Pfizer's] Geodon, Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa and Abilify would be used extensively within the Pennsylvania network of care for the mentally ill.
According to the Pennsylvania attorney general:
As part of his responsibilities, Fiorello served on a committee that decided which drugs would be used for mental health treatment in all state hospitals -- decisions which guided more than $9 million in annual drug purchases by the Commonwealth.
Fiorello paid $27,000 in civil fines after the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission cited him in connection with the same allegations in 2005.

The conviction and its evidence trail will now be of extreme interest to Texas lawyers. Their case is a civil one, but the verdict in Pennsylvania will now doubtless cause them to wonder what the discovery process will bring, and whether their case can't morph into a criminal claim also ...