On October 5th, a federal court in Chicago reached a verdict that found drug company AbbVie liable to pay a plaintiff over $140 million due to a heart attack allegedly caused by the testosterone-replacement medication AndroGel. This ruling called for compensatory damages of $140,000 and $140 million in punitive damages (damages designed specifically to punish).
The plaintiff in this case used the product for two months before his heart attack in 2010. While AbbVie asserted that the heart attack was due to plaintiff’s high blood pressure and obesity, they failed to convince the jury of such causality. This is the second time a court has ruled in favor of the plaintiff in an AndroGel case against AbbVie.
The Fight Has Only Just Begun…
These trials are far from over – some 6,000 additional cases have also been filed against the company and other makers of testosterone replacement drugs. Plaintiffs allege these gels are dangerous drugs and can cause strokes, heart attacks and other serious health problems. The plaintiff in the latest case argued that AndroGel caused his blood to thicken, which led to a higher probability of blood clots, ultimately causing his life-threatening heart attack. He further claimed that AbbVie promoted AndroGel aggressively, suggesting it as a remedy for “low testosterone,” which could cause men to feel tired and less vigorous.
The two AndroGel verdicts have been based largely on the grounds that AbbVie did not clearly convey the possible health hazards of AndroGel to consumers. Notably, in May 2015 the FDA required AbbVie to note potential cardiovascular problems caused by the drug on its packaging.
The Jury Is In, and It Doesn’t Look Good for AbbVie
In the July 2017 AndroGel verdict, the jury decided the plaintiff should receive $150 million in punitive damages.
In this latest case, the plaintiff claimed that AndroGel had been formally approved to be used only to treat hypogonadism, though the advertising was not directed to that condition alone. He argued that AbbVie targeted and ultimately created a health risk for a much larger population of men. The company clearly benefitted from the ad campaign; in fact, last year’s sales of AndroGel were approximately $675 million. While AbbVie plans to appeal both verdicts, these trial results do not bode well for the Big Pharma company’s future cases.