Johnson & Johnson fined $8 bn for hiding fact about drug causing breast growth in men
10 October 2019
A US jury on Tuesday slapped $8 billion in punitive damages on Johnson & Johnson and one of its subsidiaries over their drug that allegedly caused abnormal growth of female breast tissue in men.
Nicholas Murray had in his petition claimed that J&J failed to warn him of the risk of gynecomastia, the development of enlarged breasts in males, associated with the use of Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug.
Murray had previously won $680,000 over his claims that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn that young men using its antipsychotic drug Risperdal could grow breasts, a Philadelphia jury said on Tuesday.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury’s verdict in favour of Nicholas Murray is one of the thousands of Risperdal cases pending in the state of Pennsylvania
The punitive damages on a corporation is imposed when it values profits over safety and profits over patients, Murray’s lawyers, Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a joint statement. Johnson & Johnson and (subsidiary) Janssen chose billions over children, they added.
J&J said the award was grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident it will be overturned. It added that the jury in the case had not been allowed to hear evidence of Risperdal’s benefits.
Murray, like other male plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation over Risperdal, alleges that he developed breasts after being prescribed the medicine when he was a minor. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in late 1993 for treating schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults.
Plaintiffs claim that J&J failed to warn of the risk of gynecomastia, the development of enlarged breasts in males, associated with Risperdal, which they say the company marketed for unapproved uses with children.
In his lawsuit, Murray, now 26, alleged that he developed breasts after his doctors began prescribing him Risperdal off-label in 2003 after a psychologist diagnosed him with autism spectrum disorder. Doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines as they see fit, while companies are only allowed to promote their drugs for approved uses.
A jury in 2015 awarded Murray $1.75 million after finding J&J was negligent in failing to warn of the risk of gynecomastia. A state appeals court upheld the verdict in February 2018 but reduced it to $680,000.
Plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation had been barred from seeking punitive damages since 2014, when a state court judge ruled that the law of New Jersey, which prohibits punitive damages and is J&J’s home state, should be applied globally to the cases.
But a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling in 2018 cleared the way for punitive damages awards, holding that the law of each plaintiff’s state should instead apply.