J&J fights $327M Risperdal verdict, saying no one was harmed

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South Carolina Circuit Judge Roger Couch took a particularly creative approach when he levied a $327 million penalty against Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) in the state's Risperdal case. A jury found J&J hid health issues and substantially overstated the benefits of the schizophrenia drug in marketing to doctors in the state. So he assessed the company $300 for every sample box it gave out and a $4,000 penalty for each "Dear Doctor" letter it published. J&J has now complained to the South Carolina Supreme Court that the penalties are just wrong. 

The company's Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary has gone to the South Carolina Supreme Court, asking that the penalty be thrown out, arguing that it did not intentionally deceive physicians and that the state never showed any patients were actually harmed by the drug, the Associated Press reports. The court's ruling is not expected for several months, and it is only one of many on which J&J is waiting.

The company last year agreed to pay $181 million to settle litigation with 36 states and the District of Columbia over Risperdal marketing, a sum that seems very reasonable compared to some of the jury awards that have been assessed. There was the whopping $1.2 billion award in Arkansas, as well as a $258 million penalty in Louisiana. The company is appealing both of those. There were several reports last year that the company was nearing a settlement with federal authorities that might top $2 billion, but that deal has yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, the company is also battling through individual cases that allege health issues. In October it settled 5 pending cases for undisclosed sums, dodging the chance that former FDA Commissioner David Kessler would be allowed to testify against the company. He was prepared to say J&J broke the law by promoting the drug for use in children.