Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant, has to pay $8 billion to a man who developed an unwanted side effect from taking Risperdal, an anti-psychotic drug.
The man, 26-year-old Nicholas Murray, claimed that the firm failed to warn him about the side effects. He claimed he developed breasts via an incurable condition known as gynecomastia after taking the medication, CBS News reported.
Thousands of other people have filed lawsuits alleging the same.
Murray said he was given Risperdal at the age of 9 for symptoms related to autism. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, approved the drug in the early 1990s for schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults.
“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, according to the New York Post. “Johnson & Johnson and [subsidiary] Janssen chose billions over children.”
Reports have said Murray was previously awarded $680,000.
Johnson & Johnson pilloried the verdict, saying the sum “grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award,” according to Reuters. The company said it is confident the verdict will be overturned.
But Murray’s attorneys told CBS they believe the verdict will stand, adding that the large sum was sought in the hopes that it will deter the company from similar conduct.
Murray’s suit, and others, have claimed the firm marketed the drug for unapproved uses regarding children.
Professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law told Reuters: “The kind of evidence in this trial may persuade another jury or judge to do something similar.”
Barry Thompson, a partner at Baker McKenzie law firm, told the news agency that after the massive sum was awarded, “every pharmaceutical company needs to seriously consider if they want to litigate to verdict in the present environment, but with the settlement demands so incredibly high it’s not always clear what their alternative is.”
The firm faces more than 13,000 lawsuits in connection to Risperdal alleging that the drug caused gynecomastia in boys.
“We’re operating within a very litigious environment, and we must at times be willing to go to trial when the science, facts, and law are on our side,” J&J spokesman Ernie Knewitz told the news agency.