U.S. justices reject Johnson & Johnson unit's anti-psychotic drug appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary’s appeal of a $124 million penalty imposed by South Carolina after a jury found the drugmaker had improperly marketed the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal and concealed its risks.

The court’s decision not to hear the appeal filed by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals means a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling from June that reduced the penalty to $124 million from $327 million remains intact.

Janssen’s lawyers said that, among others things, the award violated the prohibition on “excessive fines” under the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed court papers asking the justices to hear the case.

The state appeals court upheld the jury’s finding about the marketing of Risperdal.

In reducing the amount of the penalty, the state court cited a provision in South Carolina law that no action can be taken in such cases after three years of the discovery of unlawful conduct. South Carolina filed its complaint in April 2007.

The state had sought civil penalties on two claims.

The first arose from the content of the written material of Risperdal prescriptions since 1994. The second centered on alleged false information contained in a 2003 letter Janssen sent to South Carolina’s prescribing physicians.

Risperdal, launched in 1994, is used to treat conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability in people with autism. The drug and other anti-psychotic treatments have also been linked to side effects such as strokes, diabetes and weight gain.

The case is Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc v. South Carolina, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-600.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham