Risperdal is a popular antipsychotic. Its manufacturer is Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
In late 2019, a Pennsylvania superior court upheld a $70 million verdict for a man who allegedly developed breasts due to Risperdal. Similarly, judges in Philadelphia also ruled in favor of punitive damages in Risperdal cases. This means that J&J could be facing billions of dollars in damages.
There are currently thousands of active lawsuits against Risperdal and J&J. All of these lawsuits have to do with male breast development or gynecomastia. There is a class action lawsuit for those who took Risperdal as children and are now dealing with gynecomastia.
Joseph Greenwald, Jr. is an attorney serving the Shreveport area with experience in class action lawsuits. Here, we’ll give a brief overview of the Risperdal lawsuit, and who might be eligible to receive damages.
What is Risperdal?
Risperdal is a powerful antipsychotic. It affects the chemistry of the brain in order to bring neural chemicals back into balance. In 1993, the FDA approved Risperdal to treat things like adult schizophrenia, and some symptoms of Bipolar I Disorder.
For many years, J&J marketed Risperdal to adolescents with these disorders. Doctors prescribed it to adolescents, though the FDA didn’t officially approve the drug for use in adolescents until 2006.
In 2006 and 2007, the FDA expanded Risperdal’s approved uses. Doctors could prescribe it to treat schizophrenia in children, bipolar disorder in juveniles, and some behavioral issues in children with autism.
Many people believe that J&J’s targeted marketing of Risperdal caused many doctors to prescribe it “off-label”. This means that doctors were prescribing the drug for things the FDA didn’t necessarily approve of.
Tens of thousands of people are filing lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. These lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk of gynecomastia with adolescent use of Risperdal.
Does Risperdal Cause Gynecomastia?
Multiple studies have found links between Risperdal and the hormone prolactin. Prolactin stimulates breast development and milk production in women.
However, even in women, excess levels of prolactin are dangerous. It can cause spontaneous milk production. In men, it can cause problems like erectile dysfunction, and in some cases, gynecomastia: the formation of female breast tissue in males.
Other studies have concluded that the risk of increased prolactin is especially high with adolescent use of Risperdal.
The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claim that the company was fully aware of these risks, and still chose to place the drug on the market. Not only did they place it on the market; according to the class action suit, Johnson & Johnson made concentrated efforts to conceal these side effects from the FDA. They also, according to the lawsuit, marketed the drug to children and adolescents, knowing the possible side effects.
According to the lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson did not strengthen the warnings on their labels about gynecomastia, even after the possible side effects became public knowledge. Today, a black box warning, the strongest warning the FDA provides, resides on the Risperdal label.
Johnson & Johnson maintains that the possible side effects were available on Risperdal’s label.
Is Gynecomastia Dangerous?
When you read about some of the things Risperdal treats, you may wonder if developing gynecomastia really matters. Some people may think it’s worth it not to deal with the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
First, gynecomastia is not the only issue that increased prolactin causes. In men, it can cause erectile dysfunction as well. In women, it can create spontaneous and irregular milk production—even with no pregnancy.
Second, there are several studies that prove gynecomastia is psychologically detrimental to young boys. The Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School both found that gynecomastia has a negative impact on social functioning, mental health, and self-esteem.
Oftentimes, gynecomastia will not resolve even if you stop taking Risperdal. Patients may need liposuction or even a double mastectomy to deal with gynecomastia.
Who Takes Risperdal?
We talked briefly about the people who might have a Risperdal prescription. Let’s go more in-depth.
Originally, the FDA approved Risperdal to treat adults with schizophrenia. In 2006, they approved additional uses. These additions included:
- Adults and juveniles with bipolar disorder
- Children with schizophrenia
- Children on the autism spectrum with certain behavioral issues
Risperdal works as a dopamine blocker. This is an effective treatment for many mood disorders. However, blocking dopamine also affects the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland creates most of the hormones in your body. This can cause the release of prolactin.
Prolactin is, like we said, a hormone that stimulates breast tissue in women. However, it can also create gynecomastia in males, as well as milk production in male breast tissue. It can even cause gynecomastia in children as young as four.
There are thousands of lawsuits active today on behalf of children and adolescents who took Risperdal and now suffer from gynecomastia as adults.
The first Risperdal lawsuit cost J&J $2.5 million. The jury found that J&J did not warn the public about the risk of gynecomastia.
Another lawsuit ended in a partial victory for the plaintiff. This Jury ruled that J&J was negligent, but also found that Risperdal was probably not the cause of that plaintiff’s gynecomastia.
In 2015, lawyers filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of a California boy who suffered from gynecomastia. Johnson & Johnson settled just hours into opening arguments.
In the years since lawyers have filed thousands of similar cases. In 2014, a judge ruled that punitive damages were impossible in Risperdal cases. Punitive damages are not damages to compensate for any pain and suffering, but to punish the defendant. In 2019, Philadelphia courts overruled that decision.
Contact the Greenwald Law Firm
If you took Risperdal in childhood and struggle with gynecomastia today, you may be eligible for damages from the class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.
Joseph Greenwald, Jr. has experience with drug-related class action lawsuits. If you or a loved one have questions about the Risperdal lawsuit, call the Greenwald Law Firm at 318.219.7867. You can also leave us a message on our website.