Breaking news today: “Two pharmaceutical subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson will pay more than $81 million and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge in a U.S. Justice Department case about illegal promotion of the epilepsy drug Topamax, federal officials announced.”

Let’s reread that one, break it down and let it sink in. The U.S. Justice Department has one misdemeanor case against Ortho-McNeil Neurologics and Noramco. The complaint is illegal promotion of a drug most people haven’t ever heard of. The promoting of a drug which has already been released as generic should cost Johnson & Johnson (the manufacturer’s parent company) 81 MILLION dollars in fines?

This isn’t a drug that has caused deaths. It’s not even inherently responsible for injuries. The drug isn’t the issue. The means of promoting it is. And that earns the Feds 81 MILLION dollars?

There is no provision in the new Health Care Reform law for tort reform. When a misdemeanor can profit the government such a huge sum against a giant corporation, how can a physician hope to do much better with an unwarranted malpractice case? When the mere allegation alone will cost tens of thousands of dollars even if it never sees a courtroom, it becomes clear that the real fat in health care isn’t in a physician’s practices, but in the administrative aspects. The lawyers, accountants, promoters (of all kinds,) are the ones behind the inflated costs.

This nation is largely run by lawyers — lawyers who have systematically and categorically refused to enact any restriction or restraint against frivolous lawsuits, put any caps on damages, even refused to limit the PERCENTAGE that a plaintiff’s attorney can receive as compensation. They’re not about to rein themselves in. Of course not. It’s big money for them — HUGE sums. And we, the doctors and the patients, will be stuck picking up the bill, again and again.

$81 Million will come out of patients’ pockets to pay for the fines levied against Johnson & Johnson. The execs at that company aren’t the ones who will pay the price. We The People will. That’s not helping any of us, and it’s not really punishing any of them — even if such a huge sum was justifiable. It’s time to stop the madness. It’s time for people to stand up, to sound off, to insist that our government stop “helping” us so much. We can’t afford that kind of help.