Judge reduces $8 billion Johnson & Johnson drug verdict, appeals continue

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Both sides vow to continue appeals after a Philadelphia judge on Jan. 17 drastically cut Johnson & Johnson’s jury verdict from $8 billion to $6.8 million over damages reportedly caused by the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

No reason was given as to why Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth Powell slashed the amount, Reuters reports. Plaintiff Nicholas Murray of Maryland and his lawyer Thomas Kline promised they would appeal the decision, saying when the evidence is reconsidered, the $8 billion would be reinstated. Kline said the ruling provided “essentially no punishment for the worst of the worst of corporate misconduct.”

Johnson & Johnson, however, stated while Powell was correct to lower the amount, he also should have released the evidence that the drug’s label “clearly and appropriately” warned of the drug’s risks. The company was not permitted to use this key evidence during the trial, which prevented the legal team from presenting a “meaningful defense,” according to The Expert Institute.

The $8 billion verdicts were handed down in October, The New York Times states, and was the first to award punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The jury agreed with Murray, who claimed Janssen downplayed the risk of gynecomastia — breast tissue growth in boys and men — for those who take the drug. Murray said he developed breast tissue in 2003 after taking Risperdal at the age of 9 to treat his symptoms associated with autism.

Risperdal was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993 as a treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults and in 2006 was approved to treat irritability in children with autism, Reuters says. Murray’s legal team argued that Janssen irresponsibly over-marketed the drug to children and to seniors with dementia without adequately warning doctors of the risks.

Murray’s case against Johnson & Johnson and Risperdal is far from unique. The New York Times reports that Kline is representing more than 10,000 other people in similar lawsuits, and according to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson, a New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company, in October reported 13,600 people have filed lawsuits over the drug.

Johnson & Johnson in 2013 agreed to pay a $2.2 billion settlement in U.S. criminal and civil cases against Risperdal and two other drugs. Reuters says. The company also is facing a host of additional lawsuits, including those claiming its talc-based powder products cause cancer and its pelvic mesh cause injury and severe pain in people who’ve had it surgically implanted.

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