The U.S. Supreme Court refused to second-guess the South Carolina Supreme Court’s $124 million penalty against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals over deceptive marketing practices involving its antipsychotic drug Risperdal, a move hailed by the South Carolina attorney general.
The state’s lawsuit, originally filed in 2007, accused Janssen of covering up the risks with Risperdal on sample packs of the drug sent to doctors and in “dear doctor” letters that claimed Risperdal was safer than rival antipsychotics. The state alleged that Janssen engaged in these deceptive acts in order to protect the billions of dollars in revenues that the drug generated.
In June 211, a South Carolina state court judge found Janssen liable and order the company to pay $327 million in civil penalties for some 553,055 separate violations of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. In February, the state Supreme Court cut the penalty to $136 million when it trimmed claims to three years from the January 2007 agreement between Janssen and the state.
The South Carolina Supreme Court last summer reduced the penalty by $12 million – to $124 million – due to a calculation error, and in November, Janssen filed its petition for a writ of certiorari, which orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that a higher court may review it. Janssen claimed that the nine-figure penalty was unconstitutional because there was no showing of actual injury or harm.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision or comment on Janssen’s petition, which is customary.
Risperdal, known generically as risperidone, is approved to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability with autism in adults and children. Janssen currently faces lawsuits alleging the drug company covered up Risperdal side effects, including gynecomastia, a condition in which adolescent boys grow female breasts.