AbbVie, the maker of the testosterone replacement gel Androgel, was found guilty of fraudulently misrepresenting the product to consumers and was forced to pay $150 million in punitive damages.
This suit, filed in 2014, was brought forward by Jesse Mitchell and his wife, who alleged that the gel had caused the heart attack he suffered in 2012 after five years of taking the drug. The jury did not hold AbbVie responsible for Mitchell’s heart attack, but did find the company guilty of falsely marketing the drug and forced it to pay damages. Mitchell did not receive compensatory damages for his losses or injuries.
Dave Buchanan, one of Mitchell’s lawyers, said in a statement, "For years before Jesse took AndroGel, AbbVie promoted unproven benefits and falsely assured doctors and patients about the safety of the drug. The consequences of those acts are serious and real—facts that weren't lost on this jury."
The suit alleged that AbbVie misled doctors and patients about the drug’s cardiovascular risks in its marketing of the drug.
Mitchell’s suit is the first of 4,000 pending lawsuits against AbbVie that have been consolidated. The trials will take place in federal court in Chicago. The Mitchell case is a so-called bellwether trial—a term used to describe the first trial in a long series of lawsuits—which means that this case could set a precedent for future trials with similar claims.
In 2015, the FDA strengthened warnings on Androgel’s label relating to the risks of heart attack and stroke.
In a statement to Reuters, AbbVie said that it does not expect the punitive damage award to stand.