The Illinois jury that awarded an Oregon couple $150 million in a case alleging AbbVie Inc.’s testosterone replacement therapy AndroGel caused his heart attack sent a loud-and-clear message to drug companies: Lay off the heavy advertising.
Jesse Mitchell and his wife Kimberly filed their lawsuit in November 2014. It became one of more than 7,000 lawsuits against AbbVie and other manufacturers of testosterone replacement therapies alleging the drug caused heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. The lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Illinois in 2014. Mitchell’s case was the first bellwether trial in the testosterone MDL to reach a verdict. The first trial was rescheduled for September after the plaintiff’s lead attorney fell ill.
The Mitchells’ lawsuit alleged that AbbVie failed to warn consumers of the cardiovascular risks to using AndroGel, and that the design of the drug was defective and unreasonably dangerous. The couple also accused AbbVie of negligence, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. The jury found in favor of AbbVie for the first two claims. But it was the third claim – the one holding AbbVie liable for fraudulent misrepresentation related to the company’s aggressive advertising campaigns – that the jury agreed with, slapping a $150 million judgment against the drug company.
AbbVie had run direct-to-consumer ads promoting a made-up condition called Low T. The ads promoted AndroGel as a treatment for Low T symptoms, such as low libido, weight gain and mood swings. But AndroGel is only approved for men with hypogonadism, a condition in which men do not produce enough of the male hormone due to injury or defect.