(NaturalNews) The chickens are coming home to roost for drug giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J), as a jury in Arkansas has found the company guilty of fraudulently marketing and selling the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. But this time, the penalty for J&J's crimes is a whopping $1.2 billion which, to date, collectively totals more than $2 billion in fines and settlements the company has already had to shell out just for cases involving Risperdal.
Reuters reports that a jury at Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock, Ark., recently found J&J guilty of illegally marketing Risperdal for unapproved uses, bilking the Arkansas state Medicaid insurance program for millions of dollars, and withholding the truth about the drug's deadly side effects. The consequence is that J&J will have to pay out $5,000 for each of the 240,000 Risperdal prescriptions the state Medicaid program paid for during a three and a half year period, as well as $2,500 for the more than 4,500 letters the company sent to Arkansas doctors.
"(The ruling) sends a clear signal that big drug companies like Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a division of J&J) cannot lie to the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), patients and doctors in order to defraud Arkansas taxpayers or our Medicaid dollars," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is quoted as saying by BusinessWeek in response to the ruling.
The decision is likely to set a precedent for the dozens of other state lawsuits filed against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the division of J&J responsible for Risperdal, that await proper hearings. Though earlier lawsuits against J&J involving Risperdal have already been settled in Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina, the company has many more cases coming up that it now stands to lose, and rightfully so.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against J&J back in 2010 as well, alleging that the company paid tens of millions of dollars to nursing home pharmacies to push its drugs on patients, even when cheaper and more effective alternatives were available (http://www.naturalnews.com/027994_Johnson_&_kickbacks.html). And the culmination of this lawsuit, of course, has been a cascade of state and local lawsuits filed against J&J.
"These two companies put profits before people, and they are rightfully being held responsible for their actions," added McDaniel. "Most attorneys general can do the math, and there's no reason for any state to settle (their lawsuits against J&J) if they can win really big numbers in court."