A judge in Philadelphia has thrown out a $28 million jury verdict awarded last month to an Indiana woman who had accused Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals of failing to adequately warn about the risks of the blood-thinner Xarelto.
The verdict, overturned on Tuesday, had granted $1.8 million in compensatory damages and $26 million in punitive damages to Lynn Hartman, who began taking Xarelto in 2013 to prevent strokes. Less than a year later, she was hospitalized with severe gastrointestinal bleeding she attributed to the drug.
Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos reversed the decision "based on a very narrow issue related to Mrs. Hartman's prescribing physician," said Hartman's attorney, Michael Weinkowitz, who said he would appeal the decision. About 370 deaths have been linked to the medication, according to the FDA.
Xarelto is most commonly prescribed to prevent strokes as a result of an irregular heartbeat, a condition called atrial fibrillation. Nationwide, there are more than 18,000 Xarelto cases pending. About 1,800 of those have been filed in Philadelphia, earning the city the title of "Judicial Hellhole" from the American Tort Reform Foundation. Four more trials involving the medication are set for the Court of Common Pleas through May.
A spokeswoman for Janssen said the company was pleased with the court's decision. Xarelto's labeling "has always warned of bleeding events — a known risk associated with anticoagulation," said Sarah Freeman. "We will continue to defend against allegations made in this litigation."
According to Bloomberg, the drug is Bayer's top-selling product, generating $3.24 billion in sales last year and $2.5 billion in 2015 for the German pharmaceutical company. Xarelto is J&J's third-largest seller, bringing in $2.29 billion in 2016.
Bayer spokesman Steven Immergut said 33 million patients have been prescribed Xarelto worldwide.