J&J Gets $257 Million Louisiana Risperdal Verdict Tossed

Johnson & Johnson persuaded a Louisiana appeals court to throw out a $257.7 million verdict holding the drugmaker liable for deceptively marketing the anti-psychotic medicine Risperdal to doctors across the state.

Louisiana officials didn’t present enough evidence to show J&J violated the state’s medical-assistance laws with an advertising campaign touting Risperdal’s performance and safety, the state’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company is appealing larger judgments in similar cases in two other states.

The Louisiana case was carved out of a $2.2 billion settlement of U.S. criminal and civil probes of J&J’s Risperdal marketing campaign announced in November. J&J’s Janssen unit pleaded guilty to misbranding the anti-psychotic medicine. The plea was tied to the company’s effort to market the drug to elderly dementia patients without U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

The state’s lawyers couldn’t produce evidence showing J&J’s allegedly “misleading statements” duped doctors into prescribing Risperdal even though competing drugs were “equally safe and less expensive,” the justices wrote.

“Since this lawsuit was filed, we have maintained that we did not violate Louisiana’s Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law,” Pamela Van Houten, a Janssen spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are gratified to have our position validated.”

Sales Decline

Risperdal’s global sales peaked at $4.5 billion in 2007 and declined after the company lost patent protection. The drug generated $3.4 billion in sales in 2008, or 5.4 percent of the drugmaker’s total revenue.

In the Louisiana case, officials contend Janssen executives sent out misleading letters to doctors in the state downplaying Risperdal’s links to diabetes and improperly claiming the drug was safer than competing medicines, such as Eli Lilly & Co.’s Zyprexa and AstraZeneca LP’s Seroquel.

That prompted the state’s Medicaid program to pay out more than $42 million for more than 1.6 million Risperdal prescriptions written in 2003 and 2004, according to the state’s court filings. The state argued the company’s actions prompted fraudulent Medicaid claims to be filed over Risperdal prescriptions.

J&J’s lawyers argued Louisiana’s medical-assistance law didn’t apply to allegations of misleading marketing and the state couldn’t produce any evidence of fraud.

Louisiana’s highest court backed J&J’s position, finding the state’s lawyers couldn’t link any fraudulent Medicaid claims to the Risperdal marketing efforts.

Other States

“There is no evidence in this record that the defendants’ improper marketing statements caused any health care provider or his billing agent to submit a claim for payment the provider or his agent knew was false or misleading or that violated a federal or state law or rule,” the justices wrote.

J&J also is appealing an Arkansas judge’s decision to fine the drugmaker $1.2 billion over what officials said was a misleading Risperdal marketing campaign in that state. Arguments before the Arkansas Supreme Court are set for Feb. 27 in Little Rock.

The drugmaker has filed an appeal of a $327 million South Carolina verdict over its Risperdal marketing efforts there. The state’s Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled.

The Louisiana case is Caldwell v. Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc., Civil Action 2012-C-2466, Supreme Court of Louisiana (Baton Rouge).

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