J&J settles a boatload of Levaquin cases

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) appears to be in settlement mode. It has knocked off some more pending litigation, having settled about 25% of the 3,400 lawsuits it faced tied to the dangers of taking antibiotic Levaquin. The settlements come after it recently negotiated settlements related to its aggressive marketing of antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

In a filing in federal court, the drugmaker said it had agreed to settle, for an undisclosed sum, 845 of the legal actions brought by patients who claimed the drugmaker didn't do enough to warn about the dangers of antibiotic Levaquin, which has been tied to tendon problems, Bloomberg reports. It said it is in negotiations to settle another 190 of the cases.

Only four Levaquin cases have made it to trial so far and Johnson & Johnson has won three of those but was handed a $1.8 million verdict in the case in which it did not prevail.

As part of the filing, the company and the plaintiffs reported to the court that it was working on "developing a standardized settlement protocol through which plaintiffs will submit cases for an evaluation of whether, and to what extent, their cases are compensable."

The plaintiff said the Ortho- McNeil Pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson had downplayed tendon risks in elderly patients in an effort to sell more product, an allegation the company has refuted. In 2008, the FDA required all makers of antibiotics that fell in the same class as Levaquin to add a "black box" warning to the products that the fluoroquinolones were tied to higher risks of tendon ruptures.

The company has reached a number of legal settlements recently,  including a $180 million deal with 36 states over allegations that it was too aggressive in marketing the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. It also has settled a number of individual Risperdal cases, some when it looked like the court might make CEO Alex Gorsky testify about J&J marketing and some others when the former Commissioner of the FDA David Kessler was to testify that he believed J&J broke the law by promoting the drug for use in children.

Johnson & Johnson also has indicated in a filing in July that it has reached a deal in principle with federal authorities. It has been reported that that settlement could reach $2.2 billion.

- here's the Bloomberg story

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