Philly judge tosses Risperdal fraud suit

Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in a Pennsylvania case over its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. A Philadelphia judge tossed the suit against the drugmaker, which claimed that J&J's Janssen Pharmaceutica unit buried the drug's safety risks to persuade the state to spend millions to provide it to patients covered by government-funded health programs.

Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson decreed that the state hadn't produced enough evidence to show that Janssen marketed Risperdal improperly, despite a week's worth of testimony in the case. Pennsylvania had sued to recover $289 million in alleged overspending on the antipsychotic drug.

As Bloomberg notes, the Pennsylvania case was the first of 10 state-government suits over Risperdal marketing to go before a jury. The company is also fighting hundreds of patient lawsuits that advance similar claims: that Janssen soft-pedaled Risperdal's risks and exaggerated its benefits.

"We're pleased with the judge's decision," J&J spokesman Greg Panico said. "The evidence presented by plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that Janssen had committed any fraud on the Commonwealth. Janssen has always been committed to ethical business practices."

Does a victory in the Pennsylvania case augur future wins in the other state cases? Not necessarily. The state's lawyers noted that Pennsylvania law includes some idiosyncratic provisions that make proving fraud quite difficult. "As Her Honor noted, Pennsylvania law poses unique challenges in cases of this kind," plaintiffs' attorney Fletch Trammell told the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying that he plans to appeal. "Janssen committed fraud," he went on to say (as quoted by Dow Jones). "We are anxious to show that evidence to judges and juries in the other states we represent later this year."

- see the Bloomberg story
- get more from the Inquirer
- read the Dow Jones piece