South Carolina's Risperdal suit goes to trial

John O'Brien Mar. 8, 2011, 1:53pm


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina's lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceutica over its prescription antipsychotic Risperdal went to trial Tuesday in the state's 7th Judicial Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was brought by former Attorney General Henry McMaster through outside counsel he hired to pursue the case. It was filed in May 2007 and alleged Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, caused the State to provide medical treatment caused by side effects of the drug.

Janssen also marketed the drug for off-label uses, it is alleged. The alleged side effects concern weight gain-related issues like diabetes and hypertension.

"After achieving (Food and Drug Administration) approval of Risperdal, Defendants plotted and schemed to increase the sales of Risperdal while avoiding the substantial expense and delay of petitioning the FDA for approval of expanded or additional uses of Risperdal," the State's complaint says.

"The scheme consisted of elaborate and clandestine promotion of non-medically accepted indications and non-medically necessary uses of Risperdal."

Representing South Carolina are Bailey Perrin Bailey of Houston; Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins of Spartanburg; and John Simmons of Columbia, S.C.

Bailey Perrin has pursued similar cases around the country. Some were filed over Risperdal, others over Eli Lilly's antipsychotic Zyprexa and AstraZeneca's antipsychotic Seroquel. In Louisiana, the firm represented the State in its case against Janssen which resulted in a $258 million jury award that is being appealed.

Janssen successfully appealed a $4.5 million ruling against it in a Risperdal case in West Virginia. The Pennsylvania case against it was dismissed after a state judge rule in June that the State did not have enough evidence.

Among those who have hired Bailey Perrin are former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who received $75,000 in contributions and $16,000 in air travel from the firm, and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who received $75,000 in contributions. Hood hired the firm for a case against Lilly.

In 2009, Lilly settled with McMaster for $45 million. Under scrutiny, McMaster agreed to return the campaign contributions he was given by firms he hired for the case. He hired two of the same firms for the Risperdal case.

John White of the Harrison firm and Simmons had both donated to McMaster's campaigns. McMaster and State Ethics Commissioner investigator Cathy Hazelwood argued over whether it was legal for McMaster to accept the contributions.

Eventually, McMaster, who later ran unsuccessfully for governor, gave back $32,500 in donations from five lawyers he has hired to work on State lawsuits.

White gave $2,000 to McMaster in 2008, and Simmons gave McMaster $7,000 ($3,500 in 2006 and 2008. Other members of Harrison White who gave to McMaster include: Danny Smith ($2,000 in 2007 and $2,000 in 2008); Ben Harrison ($2,000 in 2007); and Donald Coggins ($3,500 in 2006).

The firm itself gave McMaster $3,500 in both 2006 and 2008. Alan Wilson is South Carolina's current attorney general.

The trial can be viewed at Courtroom View Network.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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