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J&J told to pay $1.8m in drug suit

By Associated Press
December 9, 2010

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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal court jury yesterday ordered health care company Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of $1.8 million in the case of an 82-year-old Minnesota man who sued over claims the antibiotic Levaquin caused him severe tendon injuries.

John Schedin of Edina was prescribed Levaquin five years ago to treat a diagnosed case of bronchitis. After three days on the drug, Schedin ruptured both his Achilles tendons. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration required J&J and makers of similar drugs to print warnings on the risks of tendon injuries.

That same year, Schedin sued Ortho-McNeil-Jansen Pharmaceuticals, the unit of New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J that markets Levaquin. The Minneapolis jury yesterday decided the company must pay Schedin $700,000 in actual damages and $1.1 million in punitive damages, though actual damages will be reduced by $70,000 under the jury’s finding of 10 percent liability for Schedin.

The trial was the first of more than 2,600 other US lawsuits making similar claims. Schedin’s attorney Mikal Watts called the trial a bellwether case that he expected would hasten settlement talks in those suits.

“Johnson & Johnson failed to warn these doctors of something they knew would hurt these patients and that’s conduct that should not be tolerated,’’ Watts said. “The award of punitive damages in particular sends a powerful message.’’

Michael Heinley, spokesman for Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, said the company plans to appeal.

Watts said that Schedin has never fully recovered from his tendon injuries — that he can no longer walk long distances and must crawl to get up steps in his home. During the trial, the plaintiffs claimed that warning labels should have been improved earlier than they were, and that those on labeling now remain inadequate.