Lawyers seek to force J&J chief onto the stand in Risperdal case

Should Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) CEO Alex Gorsky have to take the stand in a Risperdal liability case? Lawyers for a Texas teen suing the company are demanding Gorsky's presence in court, saying he is well aware of J&J's Risperdal marketing tactics because he ran the unit that sold the drug.

The boy's lawsuit claims that he developed breasts after using the antipsychotic drug. J&J's sales force was trained to market Risperdal for off-label use in children, the lawyers claim in a legal filing--and Gorsky was "in the middle" of that marketing strategy, they say.

"There is no question that Mr. Gorsky has significant, direct and important involvement in the conduct that gave rise to this litigation," attorneys Steve Sheller and Brian McCormick wrote in a legal filing (as quoted by Bloomberg).

J&J spokeswoman Teresa Mueller told the news service that Gorsky has already testified in the case, which is one of hundreds claiming that Risperdal triggered breast development in boys. "Mr. Gorsky testified by deposition for seven hours in regard to this matter," she told Bloomberg.

It's not the first time lawyers have tried to force Gorsky to talk. The Justice Department wanted Gorsky to answer questions in its civil lawsuit against J&J, which claimed that the company paid kickbacks to increase Risperdal use in the elderly. The government's rationale for deposing Gorsky followed similar lines; justice officials said his leadership at the company's Janssen unit put him in a position to know about the alleged misdoings.

University of Michigan professor Erik Gordon told the news service that Gorsky won't be able to avoid testifying in this latest round of Risperdal claims if the suits go to trial. "Sooner or later, Mr. Gorsky is going to be compelled to take the witness stand in front of jurors and be cross-examined," Gordon told Bloomberg. "That is, unless he orders J&J to settle these cases to avoid that risk."

- read the Bloomberg story