A Philadelphia jury ordered Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals to pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a Maryland man who grew female-like breasts after taking the company’s antipsychotic Risperdal when he was a boy, to treat symptoms of autism. The jury found that Janssen downplayed the risk that adolescent boys who took Risperdal were at greater risk of developing gynecomastia, a condition that causes abnormal breast growth.
The plaintiff, Nicholas Murray, started taking Risperdal in 2003, when he was 9 years old. In 2015, a Philadelphia jury awarded Murray $1.75 in compensatory damages, which was later reduced to $680,000. At the time, the jury was barred from considering punitive damages due to a global order in a mass tort program in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas involving thousands of similar lawsuits against Janssen for failing to warn about Risperdal’s gynecomastia side effect.
In January 2018, a state appeals court overturned the global order, paving the way for Murray’s case for punitive damages to be heard. His new trial began in mid-September.
Janssen issued a statement disagreeing with the award, stating that “This award for a single plaintiff stands in stark contrast with the initial $680,000 compensatory award and is a clear violation of due process.”
Risperdal (risperidone) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1990s, and is now used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability with autism. In 2006, the drug was approved for child and adolescent use. At that time, Risperdal’s warning label indicated that gynecomastia occurred in fewer than 1 in 1,000 patients. It was later updated to show a 2.3% rate of gynecomastia in adolescent boys. Jurors were shown clinical trial data that showed the rate of gynecomastia is as high as 12 percent in children and adolescents.