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AbbVie hit with $140m fine over fraudulent marketing of Androgel

Published on 06/10/17 at 10:07am

AbbVie has been stung with a $140 million damages award to a man that suffered a heart attack after using its product Androgel, a testosterone replacement therapy.

The warning signs had been there for the company, with a similar finding in a case tried in Illinois in July handed a $150 million verdict against it in a similar case.

In the previous case, no compensation damages had been awarded but this changed with this most recent case, in which $140,000 was designated to the individual. There are presently thousands of cases against AbbVie claiming that the sales practices employed for the gel were fraudulent.

Seeger Weiss partner Dave Buchanan, lead trial counsel in the case, stated, “AbbVie's insidious and widespread marketing campaign penetrated so deeply that patients like Mr. Konrad sought AndroGel for treatment of symptoms and conditions that the drug had never been proven safe or effective to treat. At the same time, serious safety concerns were suppressed and ignored to facilitate AbbVie's ever-escalating sales targets. Today, the jury sent a loud message to AbbVie. Drugs aren't commodities, and neither are patients. Patients have the right to full information in making decisions about the drugs they consider using.”

The issue of testosterone replacement therapies and the claims made for the treatment has become a widely-discussed issue, as sales of the products have increased.

Marketing campaigns for the treatments have often indicated a condition known as ‘low T’ that commentators have noted is invented and comes with a long-list of indicators that are simply the side-effects of ageing, such as ‘falling asleep after dinner’ and ‘decreased sex drive’.

Whilst this has allowed companies producing the gels to grow their market considerably, the treatments are often only indicated for primary hypogonadism or hypogonadotropic hypogonadism – rare conditions that necessitate the use of testosterone to make up for the body’s inability to produce high enough levels.

The more widespread use of the products led to further studies linking their use with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

This eventually led to the FDA requiring a label alteration to the products indicating potential risk of side-effects, badly damaging sales of the products. At one point, AbbVie’s sales were in the $2 billion per year region but this has since dropped to $675 million last year.

Ben Hargreaves

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