Attorney General Tom Corbett said today that New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson Inc. has been found liable to Pennsylvania for nearly $52 million in damages and civil penalties for falsely reporting the prices of its drugs.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robin Simpson rendered the verdict on Dec. 7, following a five-week trial in Easton. In 2004, according to Corbett, the office of the Attorney General sued Johnson & Johnson and several of its subsidiaries, as well as 14 other drug companies, for allegedly manipulating a pricing benchmark known as Average Wholesale Price, or AWP. According to the lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson and the other drug manufacturers inflated AWP above the true average of wholesale prices in order to increase drug sales and profits.

"We are pleased with the court's decision dismissing the majority of the claims brought by the Commonwealth," Johnson & Johnson spokesman Michael Heinley said today. "We respectfully disagree with the court's provisional finding under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and intend to pursue our arguments through motions before the court during the next phase of this case."    - Suzette Parmley