Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay man $8bn over breast growth

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A US jury found that a subsidiary of the drug firm failed to highlight risks an anti-psychotic drug could lead to breast growth.

Johnson & Johnson is set to appeal the award on several grounds
Image:Johnson & Johnson is set to appeal the award on several grounds

US drug firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been told to pay $8bn (£6.6bn) in punitive damages to a man over claims he was not warned that an antipsychotic drug he was prescribed could lead to breast growth.

A jury in Philadelphia made the award to 26-year old Nicholas Murray, whose case was the first of thousands pending in the state.

His legal team argued that J&J and its subsidiary Janssen chose “profits over patients” relating to the drug Risperdal, which he was given by his doctor while a child in 2003.

The drug was approved for treating schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1993.

Mr Murray said J&J failed to warn of the risk of gynecomastia, the development of enlarged breasts in males, alleging the company wrongly marketed it for use by children.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York
Image:J&J has denied cancer links to its baby powder

Mr Murray’s lawyers said in a statement: “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.

“Johnson & Johnson and Janssen chose billions over children.”

J&J said the award was “grossly disproportionate” with the initial compensation in the case, adding it was “confident it will be overturned” on appeal as jurors had been prevented from hearing evidence of Risperdal’s benefits.

The company is no stranger to high profile cases over the the wellbeing of people using its products.

Courts across the US have rubber-stamped payouts worth £40bn to date to people who claimed asbestos, in Johnson & Johnson baby powder for decades, was responsible for their cancers.

Professor Carl Tobias, of the University of Richmond School of Law, told Reuters news agency he expected the punitive damages awarded to Mr Murray by jurors to be reduced on appeal.

He cited a US Supreme Court decision which found that “few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.”

He added that the verdict could be a sign that J&J will face more large damages awards in other Risperdal cases.

Credit: Sky News

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