Johnson and Johnson (J&J) has been ordered to pay a $124 million marketing penalty for their drug Risperdal. Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic medication that is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability caused by autism. A major side effect that the pharmaceutical company did not warn users about was a condition called gynecomastia, which is abnormal breast growth in males. Johnson and Johnson were said to be illegally promoting the drug towards children in the 1990s through early 2000s without disclosing information about this condition. Thus lawsuits began to occur and the latest one has finally come to an end in South Carolina when the Supreme Court of the United States rejected Johnson and Johnson’s appeal.
Johnson and Johnson had requested an appeal under the Eighth Amendment, stating that the $124 million penalty was an “excessive fine” with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s support. When the trial first started in 2011, the penalty was at $327 million and Johnson and Johnson was successful in lowering the penalty twice to $124 million. The judges ruled in favor of the plaintiffs because they did not like Johnson and Johnson’s “profit-at-all-cost” technique. Johnson and Johnson are also arguing that they did not intentionally try to deceive doctors and patients and also that South Carolina’s attorney general did not necessarily prove how the patients were harmed by the usage of the drug. There are findings showing that Johnson and Johnson target doctors who mainly treat elders and adolescents to promote Risperdal to them.
While this one trial is over, Johnson and Johnson are still faced with several over lawsuits against them due to false marketing and the lack of transparency on the drug’s ability to cause gynecomastia. The fights in those cases will become increasingly harder for Johnson and Johnson to win and the processes definitely will not be cheap.