An Arizona man was unsuccessful in his attempt to find AndroGel manufacturer AbbVie responsible for a pulmonary embolism he suffered two months after starting testosterone replacement therapy. The lawsuit, filed in 2014 and decided just recently, claimed that AbbVie misled the public by focusing most of its television advertising on off-label uses for the drug.
Testosterone therapy and replacement commercials have taken the airwaves by storm as drug manufacturers tap into our never-ending quest to find the fountain of youth. In all but the most extreme circumstances, testosterone replacement is really a solution in search of a problem. Marketed under the guise of a “condition” called Low-T, the advertisements appear to claim that the natural decrease in testosterone that men experience as they age is some sort of medical issue. The reality, however, is that a little more fatigue, a lowered libido, and a drop in physical strength and stamina is something our forefathers simply referred to as “getting older.”
The result has been a contentious legal battle with big wins on both sides, new examinations of what constitutes off-label marketing, and a number of blood clots, heart attacks and cardiovascular events – including deaths – that have left victims and their families carrying the burdens of emotional pain, loss, and medical bills.
The Arizona testosterone therapy lawsuit is just one of over 4,500 that AbbVie faces in courts around the country over its AndroGel product. As a bellwether trial, the verdict will add to both sides’ efforts to determine if settlement is appropriate and a structure to do so as they try to close the issue.
Thus far, those efforts have seen mixed results. Testosterone verdicts into the hundreds of millions of dollars have been found in previous trials. However, similar verdicts have later been either greatly reduced or, in some cases, dismissed entirely.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that the very structures of the verdicts themselves can have drastic effects in those situations. In one such case, a jury awarded a plaintiff some $150 million in punitive damages but nothing in compensation for his injuries. In another, a $140 million punitive verdict was reached, but a mere $140,000 was awarded in compensatory damages. In many states, there are strict limits placed on the amount that juries can punitively award to a plaintiff.
AbbVie refused to comment on the Arizona trial’s outcome but has a long track record of standing behind AndroGel and its marketing efforts.