Virginia Man Beats Botox Makers in Court

Appeals expected from both sides

A federal jury on Thursday awarded $212 million to a Virginia man who claimed injections of the wrinkle-smoothing drug Botox to treat hand tremors and writer's cramp left him brain-damaged and disabled.

The verdict against Irvine, Calif.-based drug maker Allergan Inc. came after a nearly two-week trial. The company is exploring bases for a possible appeal, Allergan spokeswoman Caroline Van Hove said.

Jurors awarded 67-year-old Douglas Ray Jr., of Fredericksburg, $12 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages.

"I'm just so happy," Ray's wife, Betty Ray, said after the trial. "The jurors paid close attention and came in with a wonderful verdict."

She said she was grateful for doctors who testified for her husband.

"It's really wonderful to know there are honest people in the world. The doctors we had are very dedicated," she said.

Van Hove said there was no evidence to show Allergan was at fault, and she said she could not speculate on why the jurors found otherwise. She said the verdict "is inconsistent with the credible scientific and medical evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of Botox," which she said has been used for two decades to treat 21 separate medical conditions.

She also said that under Virginia law, the punitive damages will be capped at $350,000. Ray's attorney, Ray Chester of Austin, Tex., said he would challenge the cap.

Chester said he thought the jury was most swayed by evidence that Allergan sent a letter to doctors in Europe warning them about dangers of Botox in June 2007 "but decided not to notify the U.S. doctors because they didn't want to hurt sales in their biggest market." Ray became ill the following month, Chester said.

Van Hove denied that the company sought to protect U.S. sales by "relabeling" the drug in Europe first, and then the U.S. Betty Ray said her husband first noticed tremors in his right hand when he returned in 1967 from a military stint in Vietnam. He always suspected it was caused by exposure to Agent Orange, she said, and the ailment worsened as he aged. She said he sought
treatment after he began having difficulty handling a fork, and his hand began cramping when he wrote.

Now, she said, her husband of 43 years requires around-the-clock care. She has in-home nursing help four hours a day, four days a week.

"We bathe him feed, him, do just about everything for him," she said. "It's an honor and a pleasure to take care of him."

She said Ray worked for AT&T for more than 20 years, and the couple opened a hat shop in Ashland after he took early retirement.

"He was just a wonderful person to be with," she said. Ray is the fourth client Chester has represented in lawsuits against Allergan, the attorney said. He said his largest previous victory was a $15 million judgment in an Oklahoma City case.

Last year, Allergan agreed to pay $600 million to settle a years-long federal investigation into its marketing of Botox. The company agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of "misbranding," in which Allergan's marketing led physicians to use Botox for unapproved uses including headache, spasticity and cerebral palsy in children.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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