Illinois pharmaceutical company must pay a 54-year-old heart attack victim and AndroGel user $150 million in punitive damages, federal jury says.
By Laurence Banville
A federal jury in Chicago has ordered Illinois-based pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie to pay an Oregon man $150 million, Crain's reports, finding that the company had misled consumers about the cardiovascular risks of its once-popular testosterone drug AndroGel.
Low T Lawsuit Ends In Huge Punitive Damages AwardThe verdict, issued on July 24, 2017, sends a strong message to the company behind one of America's most notable "Low T" treatments, but has raised eyebrows throughout the legal community. The 11-member Chicago jury found that four years of AndroGel use had not caused Jesse Mitchell, a 54-year-old, to suffer a heart attack in 2012. As a result, no compensatory damages were awarded in the case.
Instead, the jurors framed their $150 million judgment as a punitive award, holding AbbVie accountable for fraudulent misrepresentation of the testosterone booster's safety profile.
Punitive Award Unlikely To Stand, Experts SayNeil Vidmar, a professor of law at Duke University, believes the award will be overturned on appeal. A series of recent Supreme Court decisions, Vidmar explains, have narrowed the application of punitive damages considerably, saying most such judgments should be calculated based on actual damages.
Adelle Infante, a spokesperson for AbbVie, agrees with Vidmar's reasoning. "We expect the punitive damage award will not stand," she wrote to Bloomberg.
Even so, the jury's conclusions serve as a damning referendum on AbbVie's marketing conduct. In their decision, jurors found that the company had misled both Mitchell and his physician on AndroGel's ability to promote the formation of blood clots, a key risk factor for myocardial infarction.
Chicago MDL Holds 6,000 Testosterone ClaimsThe bellwether trial marks the first decision to stem from a multi-district litigation consolidated in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Bellwether trials are customarily intended to provide both sides in a dispute with valuable real-world experience, allowing them to assess how future juries could view similar cases. The first AndroGel jury's decision, however, is likely to create more confusion than clarity.
More than 6,000 similar lawsuits are still pending in the Chicago federal court. A previous trial ended in a mistrial last month, according to the National Law Review. Two more bellwethers have already been scheduled, one to start on September 18, 2017 and the other on January 8, 2018.
AndroGel's Stock Falls Over Alleged Health RisksAbbVie has been hit hard by the controversy over AndroGel, a drug indicated only for the treatment of male patients diagnosed with various forms of the medical condition hypogonadism. Once considered a "blockbuster," pulling in more than $1 billion in revenue per year, sales of the gel-based medication went into steep decline after experts at the Food & Drug Administration asked AbbVie to strengthen its warning labels. In 2016, AbbVie made only $675 million off the testosterone prescription.
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