When you have a serious illness, you rely on your doctor to provide you with safe and effective medication. Unfortunately, not all medical products are created with the needs of the consumer in mind. Sometimes even doctors are misled about a drug’s ability to treat certain ailments.

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently heard arguments involving a $327 million penalty against a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson for misrepresenting its schizophrenia drug Risperdal in letters to doctors.

JanssenPharmaceutical Inc., is seeking to overturn the penalty, which came after a Spartanburg County jury said Janssen had violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act by minimizing the risks of diabetes and weight gain for users and falsely claiming Risperdal was safer than other treatments. A lawyer for Janssen argued that no South Carolinian was harmed and that there was no evidence doctors had been misled.

Interestingly, Janssen has settled a separate lawsuit with 36 other states and the District of Columbia over its Risperdal marketing efforts. In August, it paid a $181 million settlement to these plaintiffs, but would not acknowledge any wrongdoing. South Carolina did not participate in this legal action against the company.

Also, Janssen is appealing an Arkansas judgment of $1.2 billion and a Louisiana ruling of $258 million. A Pennsylvania and a Virginia case against Janssen were each dismissed.

South Carolina’s Judgment

The penalty against Janssen is the largest drug-marketing penalty in South Carolina’s history. It is also the most severe financial punishment assessed for violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The penalty was based on calculations of $300 for every sample box and $4,000 for each letter sent to medical professionals. In addition, the judge in Spartanburg County found that even though Janssen was well aware of the dangers posed by its drug, it deliberately covered up studies that revealed the product’s potential to harm patients. Furthermore, the company was found to have willfully lied by claiming Risperdal reduces the symptoms of diabetes and does not cause as much weight gain as a rival medication.

The issue of labels also came up in the decision. Although sample box labels had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, once studies showed Risperdal’s connection to diabetes and weight gain, Janssen should have revised these stickers accordingly. However, the findings of various studies were never included in the labels’ warning section.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in several months.

Compensation for Drug Injuries

Our South Carolina drug injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm understand the devastating consequences of using a drug that causes more severe health issues. If you or a member of your family suffered health problems as a result of a medication, we may be able to help you get compensation. For a free consultation, call us at 877-941-2615 or use our convenient online form. Our South Carolina injury attorneys are proud of the results we have obtained on behalf of clients who have come to us for help.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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