J&J Hit with $8 Billion Risperdal Verdict

Maryland man wins lawsuit that alleges that the company's antipsychotic caused his gynecomastia

A Philadelphia jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who said the company failed to warn that boys using risperidone (Risperdal), the company’s antipsychotic drug, could grow breasts.

Maryland resident Nicholas Murray, the plaintiff in the case, “developed female breast tissue” after taking Risperdal. In 2015, he won $680,000 in compensatory damages over his claims.

Several experts said the $8 billion award is excessive and almost certainly will be reduced, according to Reuters. Johnson & Johnson called it a “clear violation of due process” and said the it would “immediately” appeal the verdict. 

The case is the first Risperdal in which a jury had been able to consider awarding punitive damages, Reuters reported. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that thousands of Risperdal cases are still pending in the Philadelphia court system.

By handing down the large award, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury agreed that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, engaged in a “pervasive nationwide effort to illegally market Risperdal” while downplaying its serious risks.

Risperdal, originally approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is a $3 billion-a-year drug. It is prescribed for seniors with dementia and children with behavioral disorder and autism.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 2% after the verdict. Several news outlets quoted Wall Street analysts as saying that investors are worried about all the court battles the company is fighting, which include lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic and links between its famous baby powder and cancer.  

Sources: Reuters, October 9, and Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8