J&J settles Risperdal cases, avoiding former FDA commish’s testimony

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Johnson & Johnson has again backed down on its defense of Risperdal cases alleging that it caused boys who were given the antipsychotic to grow breasts.

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) on Thursday settled 5 pending cases for undisclosed sums, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, dodging the chance that former FDA Commissioner David Kessler would be allowed to testify against the company. He was prepared to say J&J broke the law by promoting the drug for use in children.

“A drug company has a responsibility, independent of what FDA directs it to do, to alert physicians and patients to the risks that were unknown to or poorly understood by the FDA, but were known to the company,” Kessler said in a report submitted to the court.

The company last month settled a similar case in which the plaintiff’s lawyers were pressing hard to make J&J CEO Alex Gorsky testify as to why the company was pushing doctors to prescribe the drug to adolescents even though it was not approved at the time for that use.

A spokeswoman told the Inquirer that the policy of J&J’s Janssen subsidiary at the time was not to promote the drug except for FDA approved uses. But that defense has not stood up too well in some cases. A jury in Arkansas awarded a $1.2 billion verdict there in a case alleging mismarketing, a sum that J&J is appealing as excessive.

The company in August reached a settlement with 36 states and the District of Columbia over the marketing of the drug that tops $180 million. It said in a public filing in July that it has reached a deal in principle with federal authorities. It has been reported that that settlement could reach $2.2 billion. There are about 400 individual cases pending.

– read the Philadelphia Inquirer story
– get more from Bloomberg

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