Johnson & Johnson, Risperdal maker hit with $8B verdict

Johnson and Johnson

A Pennsylvania jury ruled Tuesday that USA pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson must pay $8 billion in damages and interest for failing to warn that a psychiatric drug could cause breast growth in men.

"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".

Risperdal is formally approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but doctors are legally sound to prescribe it for any condition they believe it will help.

A Philadelphia jury on Tuesday awarded 26-year-old Nicholas Murray $8bn in damages, on top of $680,000 already awarded in 2015.

The company challenged the ruling in a statement, calling the damages awarded "grossly disproportionate" with the initial award in the case of $680,000. It added that the jury in the case had not been allowed to hear evidence of Risperdal's benefits.

A jury in Philadelphia, according to legal web site Law360, hit the drug giant with the staggering payout "after agreeing the company had recklessly ignored the risks that the antipsychotic drug Risperdal could lead to breast growth in adolescent boys as it pushed the medication for use in children".

Lawyers arguing on behalf of Murray said Jassen - a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary - had used a warning label that didn't adequately warn potential users about the risk of gynecomastia - the development of female breast tissue in young males.

In Risperdal lawsuit said Mr Murray developed breasts after his doctors began prescribing him the drug in 2003.

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.

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. "United States Supreme Court precedent dictates that punitive damages awards that are a double-digit multiplier of the compensatory award should be set aside".

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