Johnson & Johnson may have to shell out a huge sum to the US state of South Carolina in a case regarding its marketing of the antipsychotic Risperdal.

Civil penalties amounting to over $327 million have been announced after a jury in March found that the healthcare giant "wilfully violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act by engaging in unfair or deceptive acts". The accusation was made specifically with regards to a 'dear doctor' letter from November 2003, sent to over 7,000 physicians, and the drug label on Risperdal (risperidone) which were allegedly misleading about its safety and effectiveness.

John White, one of the lawyers representing the state, said that "the verdict handed down by the jury is just and speaks the truth". He added that "the damages awarded further substantiate the level of deception" J&J's Janssen Pharmaceutica unit used in business practices in South Carolina.

Janssen said it is disappointed with the ruling and will appeal. The company believes it has fully disclosed the potent risk of diabetes associated with Risperdal and has marketed the drug appropriately.

Last month, in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, J&J noted that it had set aside an unspecified sum to settle potential civil and criminal charges in relation to Risperdal.