LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — A nearly $258 million judgment against health products maker Johnson & Johnson has been upheld by a state appeals court, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced Tuesday.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a St. Landry Parish jury's decision that the company owed the money to the state for defrauding the Medicaid program, by misleading Louisiana doctors about the possible side effects of one of its anti-psychotic medications.
The attorney general's office had argued the New Jersey-based company, through its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc., violated a state law against misrepresentation and fraud, in marketing the schizophrenia drug Risperdal.
"The appeals court ruling serves as a powerful reminder that a drug company's misleading safety claims will not be tolerated in Louisiana," Caldwell said in a statement Tuesday.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals spokeswoman Teresa Mueller said the company will appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court, claiming Janssen acted responsibly and didn't violate the law.
"As we argued in our appeal to the Third Court, the lower court proceedings in this case were rife with serious, prejudicial errors, such as lack of evidence that a false or fraudulent claim was submitted to the Medicaid program for reimbursement," said a statement from the company issued by Mueller.
Caldwell's office said Johnson & Johnson and Janssen sent letters to more than 7,500 doctors and made more than 27,000 phone calls that improperly claimed Risperdal was safer than other competing medications and minimized Risperdal's link to diabetes.
The St. Landry Parish jury made its decision in 2010. The appeals court ruling was handed down Friday.
Last week, Janssen announced a settlement with 36 states over complaints about its marketing for Risperdal. The company was expected to pay $181 million as part of the agreement, but Janssen said the announcement wasn't an admission of any wrongdoing.