Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has been ordered to pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who claims the company failed to warn him that antipsychotic drug Risperdal could lead to male breast growth.
A jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday sided with 26-year-old Nicholas Murray who argued that the healthcare giant downplayed the risks.
The verdict was the first to award punitive damages against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a J&J subsidiary. Murray had previously won $680,000 in compensatory damages in the case in March 2016.
“This jury, as have other juries in other litigations, once again imposed punitive damages on a corporation that valued profits over safety and profits over patients,” Murray’s lawyers, Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a joint statement, according to Reuters. “Johnson & Johnson and (subsidiary) Janssen chose billions over children.”
The lawyers also represent more than 10,000 people in similar lawsuits.
In a statement, J&J said the award “is 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 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.
Murray in his lawsuit 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.
J&J’s stock traded down 1.78% to $129.49 in pre-market trading Wednesday.
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