A Philadelphia jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson pay $8 billion in punitive damages in a case where a man said the drug company didn’t warn that an antipsychotic drug could lead to breast growth in boys, a Philadelphia jury ruled Tuesday. The drug Risperdal is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autistic disorder. Johnson & Johnson is defending thousands of lawsuits claiming the drug is linked with abnormal breast growth in males, known as gynecomastia, and that the company did not adequately warn of those risks.
Tuesday’s ruling is the latest in a string of multi-million dollar verdicts against Johnson & Johnson linked to historic drugs. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury’s verdict in favor of Nicholas Murray came in the first case in which a Pennsylvania jury had been able to consider awarding punitive damages in one of thousands of Risperdal cases pending in the state. 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. Murray, like other male plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation, alleges that he developed breasts after being prescribed the medicine when he was a minor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in late 1993 for treating schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults.
Plaintiffs allege 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.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $575m by Oklahoma earlier this year over the company’s historic involvement in the opioid crisis and earlier this month it reached a $20.4m settlement in Ohio over similar cases. Johnson & Johnson was also forced to pay $2.2bn in 2013 by the US Justice Department for unfairly marketing drugs, including Risperdal, as treatment for dementia.
They are also appealing a ruling made last year that required the drug company to $4.7bn to 22 US women who alleged that the company’s talcum powder led them to develop ovarian cancer as a result of asbestos contamination.
“This jury, as have other juries in other litigations, once again imposed punitive damages on a corporation that valued profits over safety,” attorneys Tom Kline and Jason Itkin said in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson and Janssen chose billions over children.”