South Carolina Seeks Billions in Suit for Alleged Deceptive Marketing of Drug

A Spartanburg, South Carolina judge is set to decide how much money Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, should pay the state for what the jury found to be deceptive marketing by the company of its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. Last month, a jury agreed with attorneys for the State of South Carolina that the drug manufacturer had violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by sending misleading letters to approximately 7,200 South Carolina doctors downplaying the links between Risperdal and diabetes. South Carolina law provides for potential penalties of $5,000 for each offense, and since attorneys for the state argued that every single prescription, sample box or “Dear Doctor” letter written since the 1990s may constitute a violation of the law, the number could reach into the billions of dollars.

South Carolina’s suit is the fourth case of its kind to go to court. We previously reported here on a similar case tried in Louisiana. In that case, the jury awarded a $257.7 million verdict against the drugmaker. The jury found that the company had sent 7,604 “Dear Doctor” letters and made a total of 27,542 sales calls in which its sales representatives claimed Risperdal was safer than competing antipsychotic drugs such as Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa and AstraZeneca’s Seroquel. The Louisiana jury assessed penalties of $7,250 for each violation. Of the other two cases, the Pennsylvania case was dismissed in June, and another case in West Virginia was dropped in December.

As reported by, Janssen has appealed the Louisiana verdict, although representatives have reportedly not yet decided whether they will do the same with this latest South Carolina jury verdict. That likely will depend on the dollar number reached by the Spartanburg County judge. We’ll continue to follow this case and report on Judge Couch’s ruling.

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