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United States Joins Suits Against Scios and Johnson & Johnson
Date:2/19/2009

Pharmaceutical Companies Allegedly Marketed the Drug Natrecor for a Use Not Approved By the Food and Drug Administration

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States has intervened in two whistleblower suits filed in the Northern District of California against the drug manufacturer Scios Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson Inc., alleging that the companies marketed the cardiac drug Natrecor for a use not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to the federal health care programs, the Justice Department announced today. Such an unapproved use is also known as an "off-label" use because it is not included in the drug's FDA approved product label.

Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a company must specify the intended uses of a product in its new drug application to the FDA. Before approving a drug, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for the use proposed by the company. Once approved, the drug company may not market or promote the drug for off-label uses.

In August 2001, the FDA approved Natrecor for "the intravenous treatment of patients with acutely decompensated congestive heart failure who have dyspnea [shortness of breath] at rest or with minimal activity." The study upon which this approval was based involved hospitalized patients who had severe heart failure and who received infusions of Natrecor over an average 36-hour period. The government's investigation revealed that shortly after receiving this approval in 2001, Scios began an aggressive campaign to market Natrecor for scheduled, serial outpatient infusions for patients with less severe heart failure -- a use not included in the FDA-approved label. These patients were prescribed Natrecor infusions for less than six hours on a scheduled basis over an extended period of time.

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SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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