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Arkansas Supreme Court won't reconsider judgment for pharmaceutical company in drug case

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday declined to reconsider its decision that threw out a $1.2 billion judgment against a pharmaceutical company accused of improperly marketing an antipsychotic drug.

In a one-sentence order, the court rejected Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's request for a rehearing on the case. McDaniel had argued that the court was wrong when it said the state misapplied a Medicaid fraud law in its case against New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. over the drug Risperdal.

"The court's rejection of the state (Medicaid fraud) case does significant harm to the state and its citizens," McDaniel wrote in the filing. "It deprives the state of a critical tool to protect the integrity of the Arkansas Medicaid program and the vulnerable poor, sick and elderly who depend on Medicaid as a literal lifeline."

A spokesman for McDaniel didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. The high court's ruling did not elaborate on why the request was denied.

Arkansas won the billion-dollar judgment against Risperdal by claiming Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. didn't properly communicate the drug's risks and shouldn't have marketed it for off-label use. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox then ordered the companies to pay $5,000 for each of the 240,000 Risperdal prescriptions for which Arkansas' Medicaid program paid during a 3½-year span, but the state's high court threw out that judgment last month.

The company said there was no fraud and that Arkansas' Medicaid program wasn't harmed.

Risperdal was introduced in 1994 as a "second-generation" antipsychotic drug, and it earned Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars in sales before generic versions became available. The drug is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability in autism patients.

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