Pennsylvania still trying get a slice of J&J Risperdal payouts

An appeal being heard today on a case seen as the precursor to the mountains of litigation over Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Risperdal may decide whether Pennsylvania will see any of the millions of dollars other states are now putting into their lean coffers.

Like the others, it alleges that J&J's Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, oversold the drug's benefits while underselling the risks, and all the while reaping billions of dollars in sales. The effort to pump up sales of Risperdal has in fact become the poster child for overzealous drug marketing in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson has lost cases around the country and been ordered to pay hundreds of millions to different states. An Arkansas judge just levied a $1.2 billion judgment, although whether that will stand is yet to be determined. The company is also negotiating with federal authorities over possible criminal charges, and settlement is expected to set the company back as much as $1.8 billion.

But in Pennsylvania, the outcome remains uncertain, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, even though a state investigator, Allen Jones, found the company had provided three state officials with money for speaking engagements and travel so they could tout the benefits of the drug. Jones was fired after the revelations were made and his evidence was never used in a 2008 case Pennsylvania brought against J&J, the Inquirer reports. A lower court judge eventually tossed the case for being insubstantial, a decision now being appealed. J&J says it was the right decision.

But Jones later filed a whistleblower case that became the basis of a lawsuit against J&J in Texas. That suit was recently settled for $158 million. In an email to the Inquirer, Jones says, "I assisted the State of Texas in the recovery of $158 million dollars expended as the result of J&J's fraudulent marketing of Risperdal. I could have assisted the state of Pennsylvania in establishing and prosecuting the exact same fact pattern which prevailed in Texas."

- here's the Philadelphia Inquirer story