Johnson & Johnson has been told to pay $257.7 million by a jury in Louisiana for claiming that its antipsychotic Risperdal was superior to similar drugs and downplaying its link to diabetes.
The healthcare giant's Janssen Pharmaceutica unit stands accused of violating the state’s Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law. Louisiana alleges that in 2003 and 2004, J&J sent 'Dear Doctor' letters to more than 7,500 healthcare providers in the state claiming that Risperdal (risperidone) was safer than other antipsychotics, such as AstraZeneca's Seroquel (quetiapine) and Eli Lilly's Zyprexa (olanzapine).
The court stated that J&J made more than 27,000 similar marketing calls and was warned by the US Food and Drug Administration out making "false and misleading claims that minimised the risk of diabetes associated with Risperdal and overstated the drugs supremacy to rival medicines". As such, the jury, in the city of Opelousas, has imposed a penalty of $7,250 for each of the 35,542 violations of the MAPIL.
J&J intends to appeal the decision. Spokesman Michael Heinley told Bloomberg that “we believe the jury was not appropriately instructed on applicable legal standards and that critical and highly relevant evidence was excluded".
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said the verdict "sends a loud message to those who knowingly try to defraud the system. Those who deceive the state must pay.”
The verdict is the second state lawsuit J&J has lost over its marketing Risperdal as last year, a West Virginia judge in a non-jury trial last year awarded $3.95 million, finding the company misled doctors about the risks and benefits of the drug. In June, a suit in Pennsylvania was dismissed alleging the company downplayed Risperdal risks and misled officials into paying millions more than they should have for the drug.