$1.2bn J&J deceptive marketing fine overturned

The Arkansas Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s fine of $1.2 billion (£725 million), imposed on Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen in April 2012 over its marketing of antipsychotic drug Risperdal (risperidone).

The state of Arkansas’s case against Janssen revolves around its handling of a request by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform doctors of possible side effects of the whole class of atypical antipsychotics, to which risperidone belongs. Briefly, the case contends that Janssen misled doctors about the safety of risperidone relative to other drugs, causing them to prescribe it favourably. Since many of these prescriptions were paid for by the US Medicaid scheme for helping poor patients afford drugs, Arkansas claims the company defrauded the state.

In part, the fine was overturned because the Supreme Court decided that law that the State was accusing Janssen of contravening applies to healthcare institutions, not pharmaceutical companies. Janssen is awaiting a ruling in South Carolina over similar allegations, and a similar case in Louisiana was overturned in January. None of these cases are related to the J&J’s $2.2 billion fine from a federal case brought by the US Department of Justice over mismarketing of Risperdal.

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