J&J wins Risperdal case in Commonwealth Court

Johnson & Johnson celebrated a rare victory Thursday in its multi-state court fights over marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court upheld the decisions of two Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judges, who collectively, in effect, dismissed a state-sponsored suit alleging J&J’s Janssen subsidiary inappropriately profited from sales through the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program.

"We are very pleased with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s unanimous decision that the trial judge was correct in granting our motion for non-suit, which effectively dismissed the case filed against the company in 2007," Janssen said in a statement.

State officials did not respond to requests for comment, so its unclear if they will appeal.

Rispderal is a approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia and bipolar mania, but other states won big-money court fights over allegations that Janssen paid kickbacks to officials or marketed the drug for other ailments, sometimes for use in children. Medicaid is a state-federal health-care program for low-income citizens.

J&J agreed to pay $158 million to stop a trial in Texas. Though appeals are pending, it lost in South Carolina ($327 million), Louisiana ($258 million) and Arkansas ($1.2 billion). The company is negotiating with the federal government and reports suggest it might pay as much as $2.2 billion.

Though concepts might transcend state lines, evidence does not always make it across.

But in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court essentially agreed with J&J attorney Edward Posner of Drinker Biddle who argued on May 16 in the Philadelphia hearing that the commonwealth had shown “a complete and total failure” to prove its case.