By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – A Philadelphia state court jury on Tuesday ordered Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson to pay $27.8 million to an Indiana couple over the drugmakers’ failure to warn of internal bleeding risks from their blood thinner Xarelto.
The jury slapped the companies, which jointly developed the blockbuster drug, with $1.8 million in compensatory and $26 million in punitive damages, according to the couple’s lawyer.
The verdict marks the first trial loss in litigation over Xarelto. Bayer and J&J have won three previous cases in federal court.
Bayer in a statement said it believed there was no basis for the verdict, including the punitive damages award, and said it was going to appeal the verdict.
Janssen, J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary, in a statement also said it was going to appeal the verdict, adding that it contradicted years of scientific data and repeated confirmations of Xarelto’s safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Xarelto is the worst in class of the new blood thinners,” Michael Weinkowitz, the couple’s lawyer, said in a statement. “The serious health complications suffered by thousands of patients could have been avoided if physicians were properly instructed about the risks.”
Lynn Hartman and her husband had sued the drugmakers in 2015.
Hartman was prescribed Xarelto to prevent strokes as a result of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. She took the drug for approximately one year and in June 2014 was hospitalized with severe gastrointestinal bleeding, which she blamed on Xarelto. She has since recovered.
The trial was the first of roughly 1,400 Xarelto cases pending in the Philadelphia court.
More than 18,500 cases are pending in federal court, where they are consolidated in a multidistrict litigation at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Federal juries have cleared the companies of liability in three previous trials. The latest verdict in the federal litigation came down in August in the case of a Mississippi woman.
Xarelto is Bayer’s best-selling drug and in 2016 contributed 2.9 billion euros ($3.41 billion) in revenues to the German group’s pharmaceutical business.
J&J in 2016 reported $2.2 billion in revenues from Xarelto.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xarelto in 2011. The drug is prescribed for people with atrial fibrillation and to treat and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms.
(Reporting by Anthony Lin; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)