J&J persuades LA Supreme Court to toss $257M Risperdal marketing verdict

The legal battle over Risperdal marketing wears on. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) persuaded the Louisiana Supreme Court to toss a $257 million verdict against the company, a big win in the company's multibillion-dollar fight with state and federal authorities.

A Louisiana jury had held J&J liable for deceptively marketing Risperdal, a powerful antipsychotic drug, to doctors in the state. It was one of the separate jury verdicts in states that opted out of broad settlement talks with the U.S. Justice Department and a variety of state attorneys general.

J&J settled its DoJ investigation, along with state civil claims, in November with a $2.2 billion criminal and civil penalty. J&J's Janssen unit pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor misbranding charge. The deal covered marketing of a variety of drugs, including Risperdal; another J&J antipsychotic, Invega; and the heart drug Natrecor.

It didn't cover states that, like Louisiana, chose to go it alone in their fight with J&J. Texas settled Risperdal-related claims separately for $158 million, while an Arkansas jury slapped the company with a whopping $1.2 billion penalty. J&J is appealing the Arkansas ruling; oral arguments before the state's Supreme Court are set for Feb. 27.

As Bloomberg reports, Louisiana's top court found that state officials didn't present enough evidence to show J&J's marketing violated healthcare-assistance laws. At issue were letters distributed to doctors that allegedly downplayed Risperdal's risks, particularly its links to diabetes, and claimed that it was safer than rival drugs such as AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Seroquel and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Zyprexa. In their decision, the justices wrote that the evidence wasn't sufficient to show that J&J's "misleading statements" actually fooled doctors into prescribing Risperdal over competing drugs. 

A Janssen spokeswoman told Bloomberg that the company is "gratified to have our position validated" by the decision.

- see the story from Bloomberg

Special Report: Pharma's Top 11 Marketing Settlements - J&J