Louisiana jury tags J&J with $257M Risperdal verdict

One promotional letter could cost Johnson & Johnson $257.7 million. The drugmaker lost a jury verdict in a Risperdal marketing case in Louisiana, its second loss at trial in state court, Bloomberg reports. The case was based on J&J's claims that Risperdal was safer than competing antipsychotic drugs, made in a November 2003 letter to 700,000 doctors, 7,604 of them in Louisiana.

After J&J mailed that letter, the FDA warned the company, saying it had made false and misleading statements about Risperdal, minimizing the risks of the drugs and overstating its superiority to other meds, the news service reports.

The jury held J&J liable for all of those Louisiana letters, plus 27,542 sales calls made by J&J reps in 2003 and 2004. In all, the panel found 35,542 violations of Lousiana's Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law and penalized J&J $7,250 for each one. The whopping total is the fifth-largest jury verdict in the U.S. so far this year. The state had asked for $351 million, based on a $10,000 penalty for each violation.

But will J&J ever pay that much? The company says it will appeal the ruling--"We believe the jury was not appropriately instructed on applicable legal standards and that critical and highly relevant evidence was excluded," a spokesman tells Bloomberg--and outsized verdicts do tend to shrink as they make their way up the legal food chain. In comparison, a West Virginia judge last year awarded $3.95 million to the state in a similar case.

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