Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $8 billion over drug side effect

Henrietta Strickland
October 9, 2019

A Philadelphia jury has decided that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals should pay $12 billion over an antipsychotic drug that the plaintiff's attorneys say is linked to the growth of female breast tissue in boys.

J&J is facing a series of complaints in state courts for failing to properly warn of Risperdal's side effects, including in Pennsylvania, California and Missouri. "Johnson & Johnson and [subsidiary] Janssen chose billions over children", they said.

"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 2016, another Philadelphia jury awarded $70 million to Andrew Yount and his family, ruling that the company not only failed to warn Yount about the issues surrounding Risperdal but had destroyed evidence related to the case.

The company challenged the ruling in a statement, calling the damages awarded "grossly disproportionate" with the initial award in the case of $680,000.

The extremely large punitive damages award is likely to be reduced on the grounds that it violates due process.

"A jury, if it's outrageous enough conduct, will award a big number and let the lawyers and judges work it out", he said.

Risperdal, which treats schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability associated with autism, was one of J&J's highest-selling products before losing its USA patent exclusivity in 2008. A psychologist prescribed the drug after diagnosing 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 had previously awarded Murray $1.75 million in compensatory damages but the jury was prohibited from awarding punitive damages due to a "global order in a mass tort program" to coordinate the 7,000 plus Risperdal cases now pending in Philadelphia County.

An appeals court later overturned the judge's decision on punitive damages, clearing the way for the punitive-damages phase of the trial to start in September, ending with Tuesday's verdict. "United States Supreme Court precedent dictates that punitive damages awards that are a double-digit multiplier of the compensatory award should be set aside".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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