UPDATE AGs, legislators join McDaniel in defending judgment against drug maker


LITTLE ROCK — Attorneys general of 35 states and 65 members of the Arkansas General Assembly have joined Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold a $1.2 billion judgment against a pharmaceutical company, McDaniel said Tuesday.

A Pulaski County jury found in April 2012 that Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, had repeatedly violated state law. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox ordered the drug maker to pay $1.2 billion in penalties for defrauding the state’s Medicaid system and deceiving Arkansas consumers about the safety risks of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Those risks include weight gain and diabetes, as well as strokes among elderly patients.

The attorneys general and state legislators, in separate requests, asked Fox on Tuesday for permission to submit amicus briefs concurrently with McDaniel’s filing of his brief in response to Janssen’s appeal. The AARP, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Donald Kennedy also submitted amicus briefs for consideration by the court.

Janssen claims that the penalties are excessive and are pre-empted by federal law, and that its marketing tactics are protected under the First Amendment. McDaniel and the amicus briefs argue the reverse.

“My colleagues across the country realize the significance of this case to state attorneys general who are also responsible for protecting the citizens of their state, and that is why they are taking the rare step of seeking to be heard on an issue in the Arkansas Supreme Court,” McDaniel said Tuesday in a news release.

“This extraordinary coalition of AGs, lawmakers and consumer-advocacy groups has come together to support the important policy behind this case. To deter this type of fraudulent, harmful behavior, states must have the ability to pursue penalties against the wrongdoers,” he said.

Janssen said Tuesday in a statement, “We believe there is strong merit to our appeal of the court’s decision in Arkansas. Janssen presented abundant evidence showing the company acted responsibly and fully complied with all laws and regulations regarding its antipsychotic prescription medication Risperdal. In addition, the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Legal Foundation and other groups have filed briefs with the Supreme Court in support of our position.

“Risperdal continues to help patients around the world who suffer from the debilitating effects of schizophrenia and bipolar mania.”