Allergan Loses $212 Million Federal Botox Lawsuit in Virginia

Allergan Inc. (AGN) was ordered by a Virginia jury to pay $212 million to a 67-year-old man who said he got permanent brain damage after being injected with Botox to treat cramps and tremors in his hand in 2007.

The Richmond federal jury today awarded Douglas M. Ray $12 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages, according to a verdict form provided by the court. Ray, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, said Allergan failed to warn him that injections could trigger an autoimmune reaction leading to brain damage. Botox use left him disabled, Ray said.

Allergan denied a failure to warn or any connection between Ray’s illness and Botox use. The company hasn’t decided whether to appeal, said Caroline Van Hove, a spokeswoman for Irvine, California-based Allergan.

“The verdict reached today is inconsistent with Allergan’s past and current actions to properly warn physicians and patients about the potential risks of Botox,” Van Hove said in an e-mail. “Every known and knowable risk associated with Botox treatment based on the scientific properties of the drug was in fact warned about.”

Botox, used as a wrinkle smoother, is a purified form of the poison botulinum and is given as an injection. It also won regulatory approval last October for use as a treatment for chronic migraine headaches. The drug is also approved to treat “muscle stiffness” in the fingers and arms and “upper limb” spasticity.

Botox is Allergan’s top-selling drug, with $1.42 billion in sales last year, or 29 percent of the drugmaker’s revenue, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

Damages Capped

The $200 million in punitive damages will be capped at $350,000 under Virginia law, Van Hove said.

“If they appeal, we’ll attack the constitutionality of the cap,” said Ray’s attorney, Ray Chester, in an interview.

Ray, a retired AT&T engineer who owned a custom hat design business with his wife, received Botox injections in 2007 for tremors and writer’s cramp in his right hand, according to the complaint.

“Botox can migrate outside the injected muscles and cause side effects including botulism and severe autoimmune reactions with resulting brain damage,” Ray said in the complaint.

The injections left him “frequently confused or disoriented” and unable to care for himself, he said. Allergan was aware of this side effect and failed to sufficiently warn doctors or patients to avoid losing sales, Chester said.

The case is Ray v. Allergan Inc., 3:10-cv-00136, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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