In the latest of bad legal news for Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the company is being ordered to pay $8 Billion in damages to a plaintiff for deceptively marketing the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal®.
The plaintiff, a 26-year-old man, said he was not properly warned that the drug could cause breast growth — a condition called gynecomastia, which has been reported by numerous men who have taken the medication.
The successful lawsuit alleged that J&J, including its subsidiary Janssen, put “profits over patients" in promoting the drug to doctors. The fine was ordered by a Philadelphia jury on Tuesday, and it will likely be lowered on appeal, which J&J immediately promised to file upon hearing the verdict.
The client awarded the $8 Billion fine first started taking Risperdal in 2003 at the age of nine. The prescription was written to address symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Shortly after taking the drug, the boy began growing breasts, baffling doctors who were not made aware of such side effects.
Around 10,000 other patients who have used Risperdal say they too have suffered similar side effects, and that they and their doctors were also never informed of the risks. Risperdal has historically been used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It was not until the late 1990s that J&J began to expand its potential uses
Risperdal® Lawsuits – Why People Are Suing Johnson & Johnson
The $8 Billion fine ordered Tuesday is not the first to beset Johnson & Johnson and Janssen over marketing practices for Risperdal. The company and its subsidiaries have settled thousands of cases involving the illegal promotion of the drug. According to Reuters, J&J is currently facing some 13,400 lawsuits tied to Risperdal alone.
According to Risperdal lawsuits, J&J’s legal troubles stem from a corporate-driven desire to promote more prescriptions of a drug that was simply not making enough money.
According to multiple reports, J&J knew Risperdal was not necessarily more effective at treating schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than the generic form of the drug, risperidone, so they decided to broaden its scope of use. They began marketing the drug for use to treat everything from autism to dementia to anger management — all in an effort to meet a revenue target of more than $1 Billion a year.
Risperdal lawsuits began in the early 2010s. In 2012, Johnson & Johnson was fined $1.2 Billion by an Arkansas judge for downplaying the risks of Risperdal to doctors and patients.
Later that year, J&J agreed to pay $181 Million to 36 states and the District of Columbia for promoting improper or unlicensed uses of the drug. In 2013, the pharmaceutical giant was once again fined — this time by the U.S. Justice Department. The DOJ levied a $2.2 Billion fine against J&J for the same reasons as in previous cases, but this time it also charged J&J with paying kickbacks to doctors in return for writing more prescriptions of Risperdal.
In a massive investigation published by the Huffington Post in 2015, Steven Brill found “no single drug in U.S. history has incurred larger criminal fines and civil damages payments for illegal marketing than Risperdal.” And yet, even with all those fines and damages accounted for, Johnson & Johnson stands to have earned billions of dollars in sales from the drug.
Risperdal® Lawsuits Allege J&J Chose Profits Over People
Johnson & Johnson has been called “America’s most admired lawbreaker,” and the nickname seems to fit. Thousands of lawsuits have used the words “profits over people” to describe the company’s motivations behind the marketing of its pharmaceuticals.
Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly broken, bent, or skirted laws meant to protect patients. This has resulted in the over-prescription of numerous dangerous drugs and caused suffering to untold thousands.
J&J’s responsibility in fueling the opioid crisis is now a matter of public record — with some courts, including those in Oklahoma and Ohio, having leveled enormous fines against the company, including charges of complicity in the escalation of the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic.
At the heart of these seemingly heartless marketing projects is a company steeped in greed and indifference to the wellbeing of its own patients. While J&J may sidestep serious financial repercussions through lengthy appeals processes, its family-friendly reputation may, finally, be taking a hit.
With a long history of litigation and stock-market dips, however, it still remains to be seen if Johnson & Johnson will learn anything from its endless stream lawsuits and legal controversy.