Civil penalties amounting to $327,073,700 have been announced in the groundbreaking case of State of South Carolina versus Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, Inc.. Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch announced the ruling on June 3 through a written order. John B. White, Jr. and Donald C. Coggins, Jr. of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., a Spartanburg-based law firm, along with John Simmons of the Simmons Law Firm, a Columbia-based law firm, and Bailey Perrin Bailey, a Texas based law firm represented South Carolina in the case.
The verdict amount is based upon violations found with the drug labels and “dear doctor” letters. Regarding the drug label violations, the judge ruled that 509,499 package inserts were distributed with sample boxes, and levied $300 per violation for a total drug label awarded damages of $152,849,700. Regarding the “dear doctor” letter violations, the judge ruled that 7,184 letters were mailed and 36,372 were provided during sales calls, and levied $4000 per violation for a total “dear doctor” letter awarded damages of $174,224,000. The combination of the drug label and letter damages of $327,073,700 amounts to the highest verdict brought against Janssen for the drug Risperdal.
“The verdict handed down by the jury is just and speaks the truth,” stated John B. White, Jr. one of the attorneys representing the state in the case. “The damages awarded further substantiate the level of deception Janssen used in business practices in our state.”
On March 22, 2011 a jury in the Spartanburg Court of Common Pleas found that New Jersey-based Janssen willfully violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act by engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce in the “dear doctor” letter of November 10, 2003 and the drug label (package insert). This decision represents the first jury verdict that finds the defendant violated unfair trade practices since the inception of its pharmaceutical product. The “dear doctor” letter, sent to more than 7,000 doctors across South Carolina, and the package insert were found to be misleading about the safety and effectiveness of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. Risperdal was introduced by Janssen in 1994 and by 2005, generated annual revenues in excess of $3.5 billion.
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