As a minor, Nicholas Murray was prescribed Risperdal after a psychologist diagnosed him autism spectrum disorder. He didn’t know that as a result of taking the antipsychotic drug he would grow breasts.
Now, a Philadelphia jury ruled Johnson & Johnson, the company behind Risperdal, must pay $8 billion in punitive damages to the man, who is now 26, reports Reuters.
Murray alleges he developed breasts after his doctors began prescribing him the drug off-label in 2003, according to the lawsuit.
Johnson & Johnson reportedly failed to warn of the risk of gynecomastia, the development of enlarged breasts in males, associated with Risperdal. J&J also reportedly marketed the drug for unapproved uses with children, Reuters reports.
“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. “Johnson & Johnson and (subsidiary) Janssen chose billions over children.”
In 2015, Murray was awarded $1.75 million for his claims, but a state appeals court, which upheld the verdict, reduced it to $680,000 in February 2018, Reuters reports.
That same year, a Pennsylvania Superior Court overruled a judgment made by a New Jersey state court in 2014, which prohibited plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation from seeking punitive damages.
J&J said the $8 billion award to Murray was “grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident it will be overturned.”
The company added that the jury in the case had not been allowed to hear evidence of Risperdal’s benefits, according to Reuters.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Risperdal in late 1993 for treating schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults, not children. Murray and several other plaintiffs with similar claims say the company marketed the drug for unapproved uses with children.
When Murray was first prescribed the drug in 2003, it was off-label. Doctors are allowed to prescribe off-label medications as they see fit, but companies can only promote their drugs for approved uses, Reuters reports.
Kline and Itkin also said in their joint statement that the “jury told Johnson & Johnson that its actions were deliberate and malicious,” CNN reports.
“The conduct that the jury saw in the courtroom, was clear and convincing that J&J disregarded the safety of the most vulnerable of children,” they added in their statement. “This is an important moment, not only for this litigation, but for J&J, which is a company that has lost its way.”
(Photo: Johnson & Johnson)