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Don't Mess with Louisiana's MAPIL Law

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Opelousas, LAIt took the jury a little more than three hours to decide that Ortho-McNeil-Janssen and its parent company Johnson & Johnson had sent out false and misleading information about the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The jury set monetary damages at $257 million. "It is one of the largest verdicts in the St. Landry Parish and one of the largest in Louisiana in a case such as this," says attorney Patrick Morrow who handled the case on behalf of the state.

The money will go to the state of Louisiana's anti-medical fraud and kickback law known as Medical Assistance Program Integrity Law (MAPIL).

The case began six years ago when the FDA ordered a label change for anti-psychotic drugs, including Risperdal, because of the relationship between the drugs and diabetes mellitus." Janssen agreed to the label change, but at the same time it sent out a letter distinguishing Risperdal from the other drugs," says Morrow. "They claimed it had a lower risk of diabetes."

When the FDA discovered this, it sent out a letter warning that Janssen's letter of November 10, 2003, was false and misleading," says Morrow.

"Under Louisiana's Medical Assistance Program Integrity Law (MAPIL), anyone who attempted to defraud or cause false and misleading information to disseminate, you are subject to civil monetary fine," says Morrow.

According to the evidence, Janssen made some 27,000 phone sales calls to doctors and sent hundreds of "dear doctor letters" downplaying the diabetes link to Risperdal.

Each event, according to the law, could be considered a separate violation with a penalty of zero to $10,000.

"The jury found that there were 35,542 violations and they assessed a penalty of $7,250 for each violation," says Morrow. "That's how the $257 million judgment was determined in which Janssen was 90 percent at fault and Johnson and & Johnson was 10 percent at fault."

Following the jury's decision, Louisiana's Attorney General Buddy Caldwell issued a statement saying that "this verdict sends a loud message to those who knowingly try to defraud the system. Those who deceive the state must pay."

Risperdal is used to treat schizophrenia and other mental disorders. It is prescribed to about 10 million people around the world and generates more than $2 billion a year in sales for Janssen.

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen has indicated it does not agree with the verdict and will appeal the decision.

Patrick Morrow is a partner in the firm of Morrow, Morrow, Ryan & Bassett. Born and raised in Louisiana, Morrow earned his J.D. at the Louisiana State University Law School. The firm handles class actions, personal injury, brain injury, medical malpractice and other complex litigation matters. The firm has had success in a number of high-profile cases, achieving 8- and 9-figure results for clients.

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