A Philadelphia jury on Tuesday said that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) must pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man over his claims that a drug manufactured by the United States firm caused him to grow breasts. The man had previously been awarded $680,000 for the same claims.
"Johnson and Johnson is a company which has lost its way", Murray's lawyers, Thomas R. Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a statement to The Washington Post. "Johnson & Johnson and [subsidiary] Janssen selected billions over childhood".
Johnson & Johnson called the settlement "grossly disproportionate" and said in a statement that it would immediately move "to set aside this excessive and unfounded verdict".
However, Johnson & Johnson has denied the allegations in the case, claiming that the drug label "clearly and appropriately outlined the risks associated with the medicine", WBTV reported. It claims that the court violated due process by precluding Johnson & Johnson from presenting key evidence to its defense and neglecting to elicit proof of harm alleged by the plaintiff.
Risperdal is created to treat schizophrenia and bipolar episodes, but Murray was given it for off-label use after being diagnosed with autism.
Doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines as they see fit, while companies are only allowed to promote their drugs for approved uses. The settlement, which also includes marketing claims about two other J&J drugs, was one of the largest USA health-fraud penalties in history.
Upon taking Risperdal, the 26-year-old reportedly grew breasts as a result of gynecomastia, a condition in which male hormone levels drop and the male breast tissue swells. His mother took him off the drug in 2008.
J&J insisted, "Risperdal is a safe and effective medication that has helped millions of people live better lives for more than two decades".
The plaintiff, Nicholas Murray, sued the company in 2013.
Another judge later ruled that a jury could award those damages.
The ruling marks another costly setback for Johnson & Johnson. In August, the state of Oklahoma ordered it to pay $572 million for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic.
Earlier in August, the American multinational company was held accountable for the opioid crisis in Oklahoma and was hit hard by a USA state judge's landmark ruling as the company carried out years-long marketing campaign and minimized the addictive painkillers' risks.
More recently, it agreed a $20.4m settlement with two counties in OH ahead of a trial about the opioid crisis, scheduled to take place later this month.
Out of the 13,000 lawsuits brought against Johnson & Johnson specifically for Risperdal as a potential cause of gynecomastia, this was the largest award given out to date.