News Feature | March 21, 2014

Arkansas Court Throws $1.2B Risperdal Decision Against J&J

By Estel Grace Masangkay

The Arkansas Supreme Court favored pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and overturned a $1.2 billion judgment against the company in a lawsuit claiming that J&J unfairly marketed its antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs have been linked to seizures, weight gain, diabetes, and heightened risk of stroke and death, especially in elderly patients. The state of Arkansas filed a lawsuit against J&J and subsidiary Janssen for failing to communicate Risperdal’s risks. The lawsuit also alleged that the companies marketed it for off-label use, equating to fraudulent practice.

J&J responded that it committed no fraud and that it did no harm to the state’s Medicaid program. The court ruled in favor of J&J, stating that the state of Arkansas wrongly sued under a law that is applicable only to healthcare facilities and not to pharmaceutical companies.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a statement released by his office, “I am disappointed that the Court viewed the law differently. Nevertheless, I will keep working to protect consumers against fraud and the kinds of irresponsible and greedy actions shown by Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals in their marketing of the drug Risperdal.”

The supposed agreement was the third largest settlement for a pharmaceutical firm in U.S. history. An Arkansas jury previously found the companies liable in 2012 when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ordered the defendants to pay $5,000 for each of the Risperdal prescriptions paid by Arkansas’ Medicaid program during a three and a half year span. These initially numbered over 597,000, but were trimmed to 240,000 after challenges from the drug makers. Judge Fox also ordered an additional $2,500 for each of the over 4,500 letters sent by Janssen to Arkansas doctors that allegedly downplayed the drug’s side effects.

Attorney generals in 35 other states joined Arkansas in asking the state’s highest court to uphold the ruling, but the defendant’s attorney argued before the Supreme Court that no fraud or improper reimbursements for Medicaid patients who were prescribed Risperdal existed.