AbbVie ordered to pay $3.2 million after retrial of lawsuit claiming low-testosterone drug AndroGel caused heart attack

A federal jury ordered AbbVie to pay $3.2 million to an Oregon man who claims the testosterone replacement drug AndroGel caused him to suffer a heart attack, a far smaller penalty than the north suburban drugmaker was dealt the first time the case was tried.

The verdict in Chicago federal court was the result of the second trial in the case of Jesse Mitchell, who last July was awarded $150 million in a verdict that was later tossed. His lawsuit is one of thousands alleging harm caused by testosterone-replacement drugs and the marketing tactics that led men to use them to combat fatigue, low sex drive and other age-related conditions.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in December overturned the first award and ordered a new trial because the verdict was “logically incompatible.” The jury, which faulted AbbVie for fraudulent misrepresentation, had awarded Mitchell $150 million in punitive damages, meant to punish AbbVie for wrongdoing, but nothing in compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate the plaintiff for losses suffered as a result of that wrongdoing.

After a retrial, a new jury on Monday awarded Mitchell $3 million in punitive damages and $200,000 in compensatory damages. It found AbbVie acted negligently but cleared the company on strict liability and fraudulent misrepresentation claims.

Men across the country have filed nearly 7,000 lawsuits claiming injury from testosterone replacement drugs, 4,500 of them involving AbbVie’s AndroGel, which is the market leader.

The cases are playing out in a massive multidistrict litigation in Chicago federal court, where Kennelly last year began to hear bellwether cases meant to be representative of the larger group and steer the parties toward resolution of the rest. Kennelly has ordered a significant increase in the number of cases to come to trial by the end of this year and early next.

So far two of the three cases tried in federal court involving AbbVie have resulted in verdicts against the company. A jury in October awarded $140 million in punitive damages, and $140,000 in compensatory damages, to a 56-year-old Tennessee man who claimed he suffered a heart attack after using AndroGel. Kennelly is considering a request by AbbVie’s lawyers to overturn that verdict for being inconsistent.

AbbVie in January won a case brought by a 72-year-old Arizona retiree who blamed AndroGel for causing his pulmonary embolism.

The drugmaker also won a case in Illinois state court against a 66-year-old man who blamed AndroGel for causing his heart attack. The man’s attorneys are seeking a new trial.

AndroGel, a prescription gel men apply daily to their upper arms and chest, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat a condition called hypogonadism, which is testosterone deficiency resulting from genetic defect, illness or trauma. But for several years, drug companies promoted the off-label use of testosterone therapy to combat age-related frustrations including fatigue, low sex drive and increased body fat, symptoms of what it termed “low-T.” Sales soared during that time, with AndroGel sales peaking at about $1.15 billion in 2012.

The lawsuits allege that companies’ efforts to grow the market led them to target older men without properly warning of the risk of complications.

In addition to AbbVie, companies targeted by the testosterone lawsuits include Eli Lilly and Endo International. Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, maker of Axiron, reached a global settlement in the hundreds of suits against it, but the terms have not been disclosed.

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