Risperdal Drug Lawsuits: Will New Johnson and Johnson CEO Gorsky Change Litigation Strategy?

Sheller, P.C. Attorney Brian J. McCormick comments on whether recent verdicts of $1.5+ billion will influence Johnson and Johnson policy and ultimately affect consumers. The firm represents children suffering serious side effects from the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson.

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Johnson & Johnson Health Care Products and Pharmaceuticals

Johnson & Johnson

“This is the third case in a row where J&J has been hit by a state Attorney General for fraudulent conduct,” says McCormick about recent Arkansas $1.1B verdict.

Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) May 04, 2012

“Now that insider Alex Gorsky has succeeded William Weldon as Johnson and Johnson’s Chief Executive Officer,” attorney Brian McCormick asks, “will a changing of the guard affect consumers or alter the health giant’s litigation strategy in lawsuits over the antipsychotic drug Risperdal?”

Of late, courts have ruled against Johnson and Johnson (J&J), based in New Brunswick, N.J., in Risperdal antipsychotic drug verdicts. A recent Arkansas jury verdict has resulted in a fine of over $1 Billion (1) and is the latest in a string of legal losses for J & J related to its marketing of the drug, Risperdal.

“It’s strange that a company hit with multi-hundred million dollar and billion dollar verdicts in the last few months would not start considering settling these cases,” says Brian J. McCormick, Jr., partner in the Philadelphia law firm Sheller, P. C. that represents individuals potentially harmed by Risperdal, including boys who may have suffered from serious side effects of breast growth (gynecomastia) that may require mastectomies.

Some experts believe Gorsky’s ascension isn’t likely to dramatically change the company’s approach to pharmaceutical lawsuits, despite the legal terrain. “I don’t think there’s going to be a huge change,” says Jeff Jonas, an analyst with Gabelli and Co. in Rye, New York, “he’s been involved in a lot of their recent decisions anyway.

In April, an Arkansas Circuit Court jury(1) found J&J minimized or concealed dangers about its antipsychotic drug Risperdal, originally approved for schizophrenia but also marketed without FDA approval for behavioral problems and sleep disorders in children and the elderly. The lawsuit was brought by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. The jury held that the company violated Medicaid fraud laws, ordering it to pay more than $1.2 billion in fines. According to McCormick, things are looking worse, not better, for the company.

“This is the third case in a row where Johnson and Johnson has been hit by a state Attorney General for fraudulent conduct,” says McCormick.

With Gorsky’s promotion to CEO “you would think that a company and its shareholders would put pressure on management to resolve these types of cases before they continue to get hit with more of these huge verdicts.”

Even though J&J won state actions in Pennsylvania and West Virginia at first, the rest of the scorecard looks bleak. In January, Texas settled a similar Risperdal lawsuit (2) with the company’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, for $158 million. In 2010, a South Carolina judge levied civil penalties of $327 million against Janssen (3) and, in 2011, a Louisiana jury awarded nearly $258 million in damages (4). Recent news reports now value a U.S. Justice Department qui tam whistleblower suit – although not yet officially announced — at between $1-$2 billion.

Various state Attorneys General already have cases pending against J&J in Utah, Alaska, and Montana with other states reportedly considering jumping in. Yet, at least on its face, J&J seems unwilling to settle many of these cases and may consider appealing these huge verdicts in hopes that it reduces their final exposure.

“The only thinking I can imagine that Johnson and Johnson has is that they will win in the appellate courts with these three cases and they will continue to appeal them,” says McCormick, costing states and consumers “for years and years to come.”

About Sheller, P.C.: Philadelphia based Sheller, P.C. represents plaintiffs injured by drugs and whistleblowers reporting pharmaceutical industry wrongdoing. The firm is currently litigating mass tort cases for children harmed by the J&J antipsychotic Risperdal. In practice since 1977, Sheller, P.C. has challenged some of the largest corporations in the country including tobacco, auto, and drug and medical device manufacturers. The firm has been counsel in more than $4.2 billion in whistleblower recoveries for the U.S. government, three of the largest in U.S. history.(5,6,7)

Cases cited:

(1) State of Arkansas v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., CV07-15345, Pulaski County Circuit Court (Little Rock) Arkansas
(2) Texas v. Janssen LP, D-1GV-04-001288, District Court, Travis County, Texas (Austin)
(3)) State of South Carolina v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, 2007-CP-4201438, Circuit Court for Spartanburg County, South Carolina (Spartanburg)
(4) Caldwell ex rel. State of Louisiana v. Janssen Pharmaceutical, 04-C-3967, 27th Judicial Court, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana (Opelousas)
(5) United States, ex. rel. James Wetta, et al. v. AstraZeneca Corp., No. 04-0379
(6) United States, ex. rel. Ronald Rainero, et al. v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 07-11728
(7) United States, ex. rel. Robert Rudolph, et al. v. Eli Lilly and Company, No. 03-943


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