S.C. wins Risperdal case, damages to be determined

John O'Brien Mar. 23, 2011, 10:00am


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - The state of South Carolina has won its case against Janssen Pharmaceutica, as a jury decided Tuesday that the company illegally marketed the prescription antipsychotic Risperdal.

Janssen was alleged to have promoted the drug for off-label uses and misled consumers about weight gain-related side effects like diabetes. The verdict was reported by Courtroom View Network, which broadcast the trial online.

The case is one of many Risperdal cases filed by states around the country. At issue was a letter Janssen sent to doctors about the drug's effects and the drug's label.

Representing South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's office are Bailey Perrin Bailey of Houston; Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins of Spartanburg; and John Simmons of Columbia, S.C.

"As far back as 1994 the FDA told these guys you can't make comparative claims (against first-generation atypical antipsychotics) outside of the label... They knew... You can't bury studies," Simmons said during closing statements, according to Courtroom View.

"You can't hide information... Yet you've got their own executives saying (in emails shown to the jury), 'That's what happened here.'... The label is only as fair and truthful as the company and the people writing it."

Damages will be determined by the judge after a hearing on April 18. The case is in the state's 7th Judicial Circuit Court.

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.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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State of South Carolina
1301 Gervais St
Columbia, SC 29201

Mississippi Attorney General
550 High St Suite 1200
Jackson, MS 39201

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