The Supreme Court of Louisiana has agreed to hear an appeal by a pharmaceutical company hit with massive penalties after a St. Landry Parish jury found it had overstated the benefits and underplayed the potential risks of an antipsychotic drug in marketing letters to physicians. The jury hit Janssen Pharmaceutica with a whopping $258 million civil penalty plus $70 million in attorneys’ fees and $3 million in court costs for a grand total of $331 million.
The suit against Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, was originally brought by former state Attorney General Charles Foti in 2004 and was inherited by current AG Buddy Caldwell. The suit accused Janssen of violating the Louisiana Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law in its claims to doctors about the efficacy of Risperdal. The Food and Drug Administration found that Janssen misrepresented the benefits and underplayed the risks associated with the drug and ordered the company to send corrective letters to the more than 7,600 Louisiana physicians who originally received letters touting the drug. That’s when the state filed suit and obtained the unanimous decision and subsequent penalties from the jury, which under Louisiana law could have levied up to a $10,000 penalty for each of 7,600 letters sent to doctors. (The jury settled on $7,250 per letter.)
In August the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the state and upheld the penalties against Janssen. The state Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear Janssen’s appeal.