Nicholas Malfitano Dec. 21, 2015, 3:12pm


PHILADELPHIA – Plaintiffs lawyers continue to spend a significant amount of money on advertising to drum up Risperdal clients, the president of a mass torts litigation research firm says.

Rustin Silverstein, the president and founder of X Ante, says Risperdal is usually one of the top five products on which plaintiffs lawyers and related companies focus their advertising budgets. And 2015 has been no different.

X Ante provides analysis of mass tort litigation to clients like pharmaceutical companies, research firms and law firms.

“Risperdal has been one of the top products that we’ve been following, as we track all the products that are featured in the television advertisements,” Silverstein said.

“I think so far in 2015, it’s in the top five in the amount of advertising targeting, and it’s been that way for the past couple of years.”

Silverstein stated advertising connected to Risperdal, first seen in October 2005, has been “fairly consistent” with campaigns associated with other products.

Plaintiff law firms, lead generation companies and other groups seeking claimants utilize television as the primary medium in which to accomplish that purpose, he said.

“So far this year, we’ve seen $5.2 million in spending for Risperdal ads and about 19,000 TV ads have been broadcast,” Silverstein said.

“They’re running all over the country, and a lot of the ads now are shifting from airing on local stations to national broadcast and national cable stations.”

Silverstein said typically as a multi-district litigation is established and the litigation becomes more national, national advertisers will likewise attempt to “cast a wider net” in adjusting the scope of their ads accordingly.

There are more than 1,600 Risperdal cases in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center. Male plaintiffs from around the country allege they developed gynecomastia – the development of female breast tissue – from using it.

The drug is an anti-psychotic manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Per other X-Ante stats, Silverstein said just more than $175,000 was spent to air 650 ad spots connected to Risperdal litigation in November, and $430,000 was spent to air 555 of these same ads in October - whereas only $100,000 was spent to air 301 ad spots for September.

“The usual scenario is there will be some kind of event that spurs interest of plaintiff attorneys in a particular product,” Silverstein said.

“That could be an FDA warning, perhaps a medical journal article, perhaps a big verdict about a particular product, and that will spur the interest.

“If the mass tort advertisers see an opportunity, they will watch the campaign to try to round up as many plaintiffs as they can. Usually, those will go national very quickly.”

So far, plaintiffs have won three of four Philadelphia trials, with verdicts totaling $4.75 million. Janssen was helped by Judge Arnold New’s October ruling not to allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in the cases, but that is being appealed.

Though it’s difficult to determine the exact effectiveness of the causal link between advertising campaigns and increased numbers of plaintiffs in a drug or device litigation, Silverstein said a trend of ad campaigns subsequently leading to a spike in plaintiffs has been seen again and again.

Silverstein also mentioned geography and venue as additional criteria used by advertisers in mass tort litigation, in that ads will be targeted to areas where it is more likely potential claimants would be found or where trials will be held.

For example, if a drug or device had a higher probability of affecting older people, advertisements tied to litigation around that drug or device would be placed in markets such as Florida.

Or if a trial is scheduled to take place in a certain state, more dollars would likewise be spent on advertising in the region of that venue.

Though, Silverstein acknowledged both time and technology have paved the way for a change in how such advertising campaigns are conducted.

“We are seeing increasingly over time more and more efforts are shifting to online: digital strategies, digital campaigns,” Silverstein said.

“In particular with Risperdal, we see a lot of efforts in search engine advertising, as well as search engine optimization. We’re also seeing more efforts on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.”

Silverstein said in these types of litigations, advertisers will generally create Facebook pages about a particular type of litigation or drug and then place the ads in the news feeds of targeted demographics, in order to attract subscribers or to contact the advertiser in question.

“People are now watching content and consuming media on multiple screens,” Silverstein said. “A lot of them are trying to reach additional plaintiffs [in ways] besides just TV.”

Silverstein added the amount of social media advertising connected to a given litigation can vary depending on the product – and social media placement is key in suits in which potential claimants may be of a younger age, such as Risperdal.

With 12 Risperdal trials set to begin in Philadelphia courts in 2016, where does Silverstein see the related advertising campaign headed in the future?

“Depending how those trials go, if they lead to substantial verdicts or awards in favor of the plaintiffs, I think you will continue to see increases in advertising and high levels of Risperdal advertising. Because I think that will be a signal that this lawsuit is worth pursuing,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein added, “If the defense manufacturers prevail, I think you may see a decline [in advertising]. If those trials lead to settlements, typically after settlements are announced, we will see an increase in advertising too, as law firms try to wrap up plaintiffs to get a piece of the settlement award.”

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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