Johnson and Johnson settles Risperdal side effect lawsuit

Posted: September 12, 2012

With a Philadelphia jury waiting - and the company wanting to avoid having the judge order chief executive officer Alex Gorsky to testify - health care giant Johnson & Johnson Monday settled a lawsuit brought by a man who said its antipsychotic drug Risperdal had caused him to grow breasts.

The trial, one of hundreds involving allegations of inappropriate marketing of the drug, was set to begin in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court before Judge George W. Overton.

The only remaining pretrial motion was a defense request to quash a subpoena to compel testimony from Gorsky, who led Janssen, the J&J subsidiary that made Risperdal during the period when the man was taking the drug.

J&J had a legal team and a settlement team in the City Hall courtroom. When Overton asked about the remaining motion, the settlement group spun into action, and when the talks were done, plaintiff Aron Banks told Overton he had agreed to an undisclosed settlement.

In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, J&J has said that it faces hundreds of Risperdal suits, several dozen of which were filed here.

Philadelphia attorney Stephen Sheller is involved in many of the local cases, and his colleague, Brian J. McCormick, was at the table with Banks and an attorney from his home state, Texas. This was the first of their Risperdal trials, and the next two scheduled also involve subpoenas for Gorsky to testify - as well as J&J objections.

Asked if he imagined J&J ever letting a case go to the point of Gorsky's answering questions in open court, McCormick said, "That is up to them. I'd like that. It would be interesting."

Drinker Biddle attorney Kenneth Murphy, who led J&J's legal team, declined comment afterward.

A Janssen spokeswoman said in a statement, "Since the early 1990s, Risperdal has and continues to improve the lives of countless people throughout the world who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses."

Banks, now 21, was prescribed Risperdal from 1999 through 2004, when he was 9 to 13 years old. At the time, the drug was not approved for use on children.

Banks declined comment after the settlement was finalized. Sheller said Banks had grown breasts large enough to require surgery.

Besides the individual plaintiffs lawsuits, J&J's Janssen unit has fought legal battles in several states over allegations of inappropriate marketing of Risperdal through Medicaid programs.

Meanwhile, the company is negotiating with the federal government over allegations related to off-label marketing and payoffs to a nursing-home pharmacy company. That penalty could exceed $2 billion.


Contact staff writer David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma.

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