Johnson & Johnson persuaded a Philadelphia judge on Monday to throw out a suit by the state of Pennsylvania alleging that the drugmaker hid health risks of its antipsychotic drug Risperdal and tricked the state into paying millions more than it should have for the medicine.
The state had contended in Common Pleas Court that it was paying as much as $13 a pill for Risperdal, compared with 50 cents per tablet for comparable medication. Risperdal was being provided to the poor and the elderly covered by state-sponsored health programs.
The state, claiming it had overspent about $140 million, was seeking reimbursement from Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., a subsidiary of New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson.
Janssen had denied misleading Pennsylvania about Risperdal.
"We are pleased with the judge's decision," Janssen spokesman Greg Panico said. "The evidence presented by the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that Janssen had committed any fraud on the Commonwealth. Janssen has always been committed to ethical business practices."
Fletch Trammell of the Texas-based firm Bailey, Perrin, Bailey L.L.P., which is representing the state, said in an e-mailed comment: "I'm obviously disappointed in the ruling. We will appeal."
Common Pleas Court Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson ended the trial Monday by granting a motion for a nonsuit after lawyers for the state had presented a week of testimony to jurors, Bloomberg News reported. Massiah-Jackson ruled from the bench, and a written opinion was expected later, lawyers said.
Risperdal was part of a new generation of antipsychotics introduced in the early 1990s to treat severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Risperdal also was prescribed for a variety of other ailments for which it had not been approved, including dementia, aggression, and behavior problems.
Such unapproved applications for a drug are known as "off-label uses." They are acceptable if prescribed by doctors. The drug manufacturer, however, is not permitted by the Food and Drug Administration to market products for off-label uses.
Nine other states are suing over the drug. Some of those suits involve allegations that the company marketed Risperdal for off-label use, but that was not a part of Pennsylvania's case.
Risperdal generated $3.4 billion in sales in 2008, or 5.4 percent of the company's total.