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Arkansas Fines Johnson & Johnson $1.1 Billion in Risperdal Case

An Arkansas judge fined Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary more than $1.1 billion for downplaying and concealing risks associated with the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Judge Tim Fox ruled that Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its parent company must pay $5,000 for each of 240,000 Risperdal prescriptions the state Medicaid program paid for during a 3½-year period. He also fined the companies $2,500 for more than 4,500 letters Jannsen sent to Arkansas doctors, about $11 million.

Arkansas sued the companies alleging they misled doctors throughout the state in a letter that downplayed Risperdal’s side effects.

Risperdal, introduced in 1994, is a “second-generation” antipsychotic drug that earned Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars in sales before generic versions became available several years ago.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 forced the company to revise the drug’s labeling to reflect increased risk of strokes and death in elderly dementia patients, seizures, major weight gain, onset of diabetes and potentially fatal high blood sugar.

Dozens of states have since filed lawsuits making claims similar to those in Arkansas. A South Carolina judge upheld a $327 million civil penalty against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen in December. Texas reached a $158 million settlement with the companies in January in which the company didn’t admit fault.