Drug firms argue against $1.2B Arkansas judgment

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2014 at 1:39 pm •  Published: February 27, 2014
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A lawyer for two pharmaceutical companies argued Thursday that the Arkansas Supreme Court should reverse a $1.2 billion judgment because the trial judge improperly applied a law in the state's lawsuit over improper marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Attorney Walter Dellinger said there was no fraud or improper reimbursements for Medicaid patients who were prescribed the drug, even though the state pursued Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., under the state's Medicaid fraud statute.

"There was no harm to the state Medicaid program," Dellinger said.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office hired an outside law firm to handle the case. Washington, D.C.-based attorney David Frederick argued for the state, saying the companies didn't properly communicate the risks of the drug and marketed it for off-label use.

"That is fraud," Fredericks said.

Risperdal was introduced in 1994 as a "second-generation" antipsychotics drug that earned Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars in sales before generic versions became available years ago. It is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability in autism patients.

Risperdal and similar antipsychotics drugs have been linked to increased risk of strokes and death in elderly patients, seizures, weight gain and diabetes.

McDaniel said after oral arguments that he's confident the state will prevail. A $330 million verdict against J&J and Janssen in Louisiana was overturned last month, but McDaniel said Louisiana's law is different from Arkansas'.

"Sixty-five legislators from both parties signed onto an amicus brief indicating that this is precisely why the Legislature gave the attorney general broad powers to enforce fraud — to protect taxpayer dollars and to protect patients," McDaniel said.

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