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Johnson & Johnson was ordered to 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 company denounced the ruling against it and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, as “grossly disproportionate” and said in a statement it was confident the ruling would be overturned.
The drug Risperdalis used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autistic disorder. However, Johnson & Johnson is facing 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.
Attorneys for plaintiff Nicholas Murray, 26, said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson put “profits over patients” and made billions of dollars illegally marketing the drug and promoting off-label use, meaning a doctor prescribes medication for a use not approved by the FDA but deemed medically appropriate.
“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.”
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However, Johnson & Johnson said the jury did not hear key evidence that the drug’s label outlined the risks and also provided benefits to patients with mental illness.
“We will be immediately moving to set aside this excessive and unfounded verdict,” the company said in its statement.
Murray, who was first prescribed Risperdal off-label in 2003 to treat problems associated with autism, had already been awarded $680,000, but had been barred from seeking punitive damages in the case, Reuters reported.
Johnson & Johnson’s home state of New Jersey prohibits punitive damages, but a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in 2018 that laws in plaintiffs’ home states should apply, the news agency reported.
The verdict could be overturned in appeal given that the punitive damages awarded far exceeded the compensatory damages, University of Richmond School of Law Carl Tobias told Reuters.
“A jury, if it’s outrageous enough conduct, will award a big number and let the lawyers and judges work it out,” he told the news agency.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
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