In the first lawsuit to go to trial over personal injuries attributed to the Risperdal antipsychotic, a New Jersey jury decided in a 5-to-1 vote that the Johnson & Johnson drug was not a substantial factor in causing a 56-year-old man to develop diabetes. However, the jury also voted 5-to-1 that the health care giant failed to adequately warn that about the risk that the med could cause the illness,Bloomberg News writes.
Nonetheless, Gary Skala was not awarded damages, handing J&J a welcome victory in what is likely to be closely watched litigation, given the controversy surrounding Risperdal marketing. J&J has reportedly reached a tentative deal to pay up to $1 billion to settle a federal probe into Risperdal marketing and resolve civil charges, and also agreed to a misdemeanor charge over the same issues (see here).
J&J has also been squaring off against several states that claim their state Medicaid and Medicare programs unwittingly overpaid for Risperdal due to either illegal marketing or undisclosed side effects. In June, for instance, a South Carolina judge ordered J&J to pay $327 million after a jury found the drugmaker liable for damages over its Risperdal marketing. And J&J lost a case in Louisiana in 2010, where a judge ordered $73 million in attorney fees to be paid in addition to a $258 million verdict, although a lawsuit in Pennsyvlania was tossed (more here).
Last month, J&J agreed to pay $158 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general, who charged the Janssen pharmaceutical unit orchestrated a controversial program called the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, which was allegedly designed to boost the use of the Risperdal antipsychotic in the public sector throughout the country.
Despite the related setbacks, J&J is widely expected to fight the more than 400 product liability lawsuits over Risperdal, at least for now. The drugmaker, in fact, only settled the Texas lawsuit after overwhelmingly damaging testimony was given by various witnesses for the state about marketing practices during the first few days. The move was seen as an attempt to prevent additional evidence from becoming public (read this).
In the latest trial, J&J attorneys convinced the jury that Skala, who is 5'8" and 240 pounds, developed diabetes because he was an obese “couch potato,” and developed the illness thanks to his weight, heavy drinking, sedentary lifestyle and other risks, according to Bloomberg. Skala, who has chronic major depression, took the pill in 1996 after attempting suicide by taking an overdose of anti-anxiety medicine, and later drank up to 10 beers a day. But J&J lawyers argued that anxiety, stress, sleep problems and family history contributed to his diabetes.
gavel pic thx to walknboston on flickr