Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $8 Billion to Man Who Developed Breasts After Taking Risperdal

It's the latest legal blow for the company

The Johnson & Johnson sign on top of a building
Nicholas Murray's case against Johnson & Johnson is one of thousands filed in Pennsylvania. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

It’s shaping up to be an expensive few years for Johnson & Johnson.

On Oct. 9, a Philadelphia judge ordered the pharmaceutical and CPG behemoth to pay $8 billion to 26-year-old Nicholas Murray, who claimed that Risperdal, an anti-psychotic drug manufactured by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen, made him grow breasts.

Murray’s lawyers claimed Johnson & Johnson did not properly warn that breast growth could be a side effect of the drug, and argued the company put “profits over patients” in marketing Risperdal. His is one of thousands of cases in the state concerning the drug.

According to the BBC, Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the court order, calling the number “grossly disproportionate.”

“The fundamentals of Johnson & Johnson have not changed, and we’re moving forward focused on solving some of the greatest unmet needs of our society,” said Ernie Knewitz, VP of Global Media Relations in a statement.

Eight billion is a large amount, particularly when compared with the $572 million Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay in damages after being found liable for Oklahoma’s opioid crisis. (Though the company could have faced a fine of up to $17 billion in that case.) That decision came after two other drug manufacturers, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical, settled with Oklahoma earlier this year, for $270 million and $85 million respectively.

Johnson & Johnson has also been embroiled in controversy over alleged traces of asbestos in its talc-based products (including baby powder), which a Missouri jury agreed had caused several women to develop ovarian cancer. In July 2018, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed that J&J’s products caused their cancer.

Public outrage toward pharmaceutical companies has been growing over their role in the opioid crisis as well as the continuing rising costs of prescription drugs. According to a survey from Gallup, almost 60% of Americans view prescription drug companies negatively.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.