Risperdal litigation costs growing for Johnson & Johnson

The legal bill for Johnson & Johnson seems to be growing after Friday's announcement that it has set aside an extra $600 million to deal with litigation, much of it related to allegations of illegal marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

J&J said last year in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was being investigated by the Justice Department.

The Friday filing with the SEC is here. The company reported in its fourth-quarter filing for 2011 that it had set aside $1.1 billion for such costs. That link is here.

The federal investigation involves Risperdal, another antipsychotic drug Invega, a heart-failure drug Natrecor and allegations of kickbacks to Omnicare, Inc. Omnicare is a nursing home pharmacy company and J&J is alleged to have paid Omnicare to prescribe Risperdal to nursing home patients.

Bloomberg News reported Monday that the settlement figure has risen to $2.2 billion, citing two anonymous sources. The Bloomberg story is here.

If that figure holds, it would be second-largest financial penalty in the off-label drug promotion category. In 2009, Pfizer settled for $2.3 billion for illegal marketing of several drugs.

In April, federal officials asked a judge to compel new chief executive officer Alex Gorsky to answer questions in a deposition. Gorsky led marketing efforts for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the subsidiary that makes Risperdal, during the time when the drug was being pushed through Medicaid programs and through Omnicare.

The federal case involves several states, but it does not involve a few states that have already gone into court to fight J&J over Risperdal promotion through Medicaid plans.

An Arkansas judge ordered J&J to pay $1.2 billion in penalties for its actions in that state. J&J said it would appeal.

Attorneys representing Pennsylvania have asked the Commonwealth Court to restore its suit against J&J.

Dozens of patient lawsuits related to Risperdal are also still pending.