A U.S. jury found that AbbVie was liable in misrepresenting the possible risks of their testosterone replacement gel, AndroGel.
Reuters reports that AbbVie had to pay millions of dollars in damages to a man who had used AndroGel for five years and suffered a heart attack. The drug company was ordered to pay a sum of $150 million to Jesse Mitchell after he filed a lawsuit in 2014 against the company.
AndroGel is a testosterone replacement gel that is meant to be used by patients that suffer from hypogonadism, which is a drastic decline in testosterone levels after some sort of injury or illness.
While this drug is meant for treating low testosterone, it is frequently prescribed to men as a way to make them feel invigorated or to boost their sex drive. Many patients who haven’t even been clinically diagnosed with hypogonadism are often prescribed AndroGel by doctors.
Patients often don’t know the severity of the possible side effects associated with the drug, such as increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, or prostate problems, and these can be more severe in older patients.
The side effects are not seen as being able to outweigh the risks for many patients, as the gel usually doesn’t drastically change sex drive or general well-being, and use of the drug can end up being much more harmful than beneficial.
As more lawsuits started piling up for AbbVie relating to their AndroGel drug, they started to pump more money into their marketing campaigns.
In 2012 alone, AbbVie spent around $80 million on a marketing campaign for AndroGel, which led to around $1 billion in sales for the company that year. This didn’t help with the fact that many doctors see AndroGel as being over-prescribed as a treatment for low libido, which is marketed as a key symptom for low testosterone but not always safely or effectively treated with testosterone gels.
Millions of patients used a gel whose benefits did not outweigh the risks, but the drug and similar treatment options are still being marketed to men by pharmaceutical companies.