Premium

Johnson & Johnson told to pay £7bn to man who grew breasts after taking autism drug

Hand holding pharmaceuticals
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the ruling by a Philadelphia court Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Drug maker Johnson & Johnson could face a wave of legal action after it was ordered to pay $8bn (£6.6bn) to a man who grew breasts after taking one of its medicines.

The US pharmaceutical giant was ordered to hand the punitive damages award to Nicholas Murray, who is understood to be one of thousands of individuals planning to take action.

Mr Murray, 26, developed breasts after doctors put him on anti-psychotic drug Risperdal as a teenager to treat autism spectrum disorder.

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the ruling by a Philadelphia court but faces further legal action by more than 13,000 claimants over its marketing of the drug and failure to warn young men about its health risks.

Experts suggested the case could spark a string of further payouts for Johnson & Johnson, which was forced to pay $572m in August to the state of Oklahoma over its role in the opioid addiction epidemic in the States.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond law, said: “The kind of evidence in this trial may persuade another jury or judge to do something similar.”

Risperdal is approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but doctors are largely allowed to prescribe the drug for any condition based on their own judgement. 

Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, lawyers representing Mr Murray, said: “This jury resoundingly told J&J that its actions were deliberate and malicious.

“The conduct the jury saw in the courtroom was clear and convincing that J&J disregarded the safety of children.”

The ruling comes after a separate jury awarded Mr Murray $1.75m in actual damages in 2015 on his claims the drug caused him to develop female breasts.

That award later was cut to $680,000 under Maryland law.

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson said: “This award is grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident it will be overturned.”