Although an Illinois federal jury decided testosterone replacement therapy product AndroGel was not responsible for plaintiff Jesse Mitchell’s heart attack, they did hit the drug’s manufacturer, AbbVie, with a $150 million verdict for punitive damages. The jury found that AbbVie fraudulently marketed AndroGel by creating a condition dubbed “Low T,” and advertising the product directly to men as a kind of fountain of youth for symptoms such as low libido, weight gain and mood swings.
Testosterone therapies are approved only for hypogonadism, a condition in which men produce too little of the male hormone due to disease or defect. It is not for the natural drop in testosterone that occurs as men age. Yet, lawsuits allege, AbbVie and other testosterone makers launched aggressive marketing campaigns aimed directly at consumers.
Mitchell sued AbbVie in 2014 after suffering a heart attack while using AndroGel. His lawsuit, which is one of thousands against testosterone therapy manufacturers consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), pointed to numerous studies that found a link between testosterone treatments and cardiovascular risks, including heart attacks, strokes and blood clots, some of which can be fatal. The drug companies did not include these risks on the safety labels of their testosterone products.
AbbVie argued that Mitchell’s heart attack could have been caused by his obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol or family history.
The jury ultimately sided with the drug company on the question of cause, but stood with Mitchell on his fraudulent misrepresentation claim. No compensatory damages were awarded, but the jury awarded $150 million in punitive damages in Mitchell’s favor.
The MDL dates back to 2014 and names drug companies such as AbbVie, Besins, Eli Lily and GlaxoSmithKline, and includes products AndroGel, Testim and Axiron, among others. The lawsuits were consolidated in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois in Chicago. About 6,000 cases are now pending in the MDL, 4,200 of which name AbbVie’s top selling AndroGel.
U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly has already selected about a half dozen AndroGel cases to serve as bellwethers, the first of which ended in a mistrial in June after the plaintiff’s lead attorney fell ill. That trial is rescheduled for September.
Beasley Allen lawyer Matt Teague is handling testosterone replacement therapy litigation for the firm, and serves on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for the MDL. For more information, call 800-898-2034 or email Matt.Teague@beasleyallen.com.