A state court judge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has reduced the $8 billion in punitive damages awarded to a Risperdal gynecomastia plaintiff last year to $6.8 million.
No reason was given for the ruling, which was disclosed in court papers filed last week in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. According to Law.com, both sides have already indicated they will appeal.
Plaintiff Nicholas Murray was only a child in 2003 when his doctor prescribed Risperdal to curb symptoms associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. He was later diagnosed with gynecomastia, a condition that causes men and boys to develop female-like breasts.
Murray claimed Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary were aware that Risperdal could cause excessive breast growth but failed to adequately warn patients or doctors of this risk. His Risperdal lawsuit first went to trial in 2015, when a Philadelphia jury awarded him $1.75 million (later reduced to $680,000) in compensatory damages.
Murray was prohibited from seeking punitive damages after the trial judge determined that New Jersey law should apply to all Risperdal lawsuits pending in Philadelphia. Johnson & Johnson maintains headquarters in New Jersey, and that state’s law prohibits punitive damage awards in cases involving FDA-approved drugs.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court later reversed that decision, ruling that plaintiffs should have the opportunity to pursue punitive damages under the laws of their home state. Murray was the first Philadelphia Risperdal plaintiff granted a new trial on punitive damages in accordance with that ruling.
In October, a second jury voted 10-to-2 to award him an additional $8 billion.
Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 13,000 Risperdal lawsuits in courts across the United States, including over 7,000 gynecomastia claims now pending in the mass tort program underway in Philadelphia.
Risperdal came to market in the 1990s, with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approving the medication to treat adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, Risperdal was not approved for use in children until October 2006, when it was also cleared to treat autism-related behaviors.
At that time, the label was also updated to note that 2.3% of adolescent boys treated with Risperdal had developed gynecomastia. Prior to that, the label characterized gynecomastia as a rare side effected observed in just 1 out of every 1,000 patients.
In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle federal civil and criminal charges over their drug marketing practice. Among other things federal prosecutors alleged that the companies had illegally promoted Risperdal for use in children long before the FDA approved any pediatric indications.