Risperdal, also known by its generic name Risperidone, is an antipsychotic medication originally approved for use with adults with schizophrenia. However, since its introduction, it has also been widely used to treat children with a wide variety of conditions, including bipolar disorders, autism, irritability, aggression and behavior disorders .
While these uses are approved by the FDA today, the drug was not approved for use in children when it was originally released in 1993. Despite that restriction, the drug’s manufacturers Ortho-McNeil-Janssen (OMJ)—a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson—marketed the drug for uses in children . Years later, some children who were prescribed Risperdal for treatment of mental disorders began to experience serious side effects associated with the drug, particularly gynecomastia which causes unusual male breast growth.
Risperdal Dangerous Side Effects
Recent FDA research reveals that Risperdal can cause up to a 580% increase in death from various health problems, including heart disease and pneumonia . These serious side effects lead the FDA to include its most severe warning on Risperdal’s packaging- a black box label.
Even when used for its approved purposes, Risperdal may still cause an increased danger in its users, including neuroleptic malignant syndrome – a rare and life-threatening neuromuscular disease . While not necessarily life-threatening, Risperdal may also cause an increased risk in the development of chronic Tardive Dyskinesia – another type of neuromuscular disease which causes involuntary movements of the facial muscles and tongue .
And of course, Risperdal and Risperidone have been known to cause gynecomastia in young males, leading to the growth of breasts. More on these topics below.
Lawsuits against OMJ and Johnson & Johnson for Risperdal began in 2010. The suits claimed not only that the manufacturers improperly marketed the drug for use in children, but also that the drug itself contained defects which caused unwanted side effects like male breast growth known as gynecomastia.
Risperdal’s manufacturers also marketed the drug for use in treating dementia in elderly patients—though again, the FDA has not approved the drug for such use.
Not surprisingly, lawsuits filed by patients who have experienced gynecomastia, heart disease, and death were not the beginnings of trouble for OMJ and Johnson & Johnson. In 2010, Risperdal manufacturers began settling federal lawsuits brought by the government for paying kickbacks to multiple medical facilities in exchange for their physicians prescribing the drug, both for its approved and off-label uses. So far, Risperdal’s manufacturers have paid almost $2.5 billion to settle these claims.
In 2015, test case trials (aka bellweather trials) regarding Risperdal began and have continued until the present day; and they will surely continue for the foreseeable future. The sheer number of Risperdal lawsuits that have been filed has required them to be grouped into class-action lawsuits. A large number of these new Risperdal cases have been filed with the Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center, including 3,617 new cases that were added in just the first half of 2017. To date, seven bellwether cases have made it to trial with four of the seven resulting in verdicts that favored the plaintiff. These four verdicts amounted to: $2.5 million, $1.75 million, $500,000 and $70 million . The jury sided with the defendant in the other three cases. Johnson & Johnson have also settled out of court with two other plaintiffs. Those amounts are undisclosed.
Recent Verdict Orders Makers of Risperdal to pay $8 Billion
A man who was prescribed Risperdal as a child has finally had his day in court recently, as a Philadelphia jury handed down their verdict on his Risperdal injury case. In October 2019, the jury awarded the defective medication victim a sum of $8 billion in damages after he claims his antipsychotic medication caused him to grow enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) when he was a child. These billions of dollars in damages were mostly awarded as punitive damages, which are intended as a form of punishment and are typically awarded when the defendant’s behavior is found to be especially harmful.
The defendant, Nicholas Murray, was prescribed Risperdal from 2003 to 2008, a total of 5 years, during which time he developed gynecomastia. This prompted Murray to take his case to court, where he and his defective medication lawyer are attempting to get justice.
Johnson and Johnson, the maker of Risperdal, is no stranger to lawsuits brought on by their dangerous drug. As you can see in the information above, and the fact that 13,000 lawsuits have been filed alleging Risperdal caused someone harm, something is going on that is causing all this. The jury that awarded this huge sum, must have been thoroughly convinced in court that the enlargement of breast tissue in a young boy did serious harm to his mental state and quality of life. This Philadelphia settlement is the largest to date.
One of the central factors, in this case, revolved around the fact that the makers of Risperdal allegedly knew of the risk of this side effect, but did not thoroughly communicate its seriousness to the seller, doctors, and patients.
Johnson & Johnson is No Stranger to Lawsuits
Johnson and Johnson makes hundred of medications and products that they sell to consumers all over the world. And with that much power, comes the responsibility to ensure that what you are selling to millions of people is safe. It seems Johnson & Johnson has a particularly hard time meeting this basic requirement, as thousands of people have accused them of causing injuries with more than one of their products.
In Oklahoma, a court found J&J responsible for a portion of the state’s opioid crisis and ordered them to pay $572 million in damages. This came after J&J agreed to pay over $20 million to two Ohio counties for their role in those counties’ opiate crisis, but they did not admit any fault.
J&J has denied nearly all these allegations and will likely appeal the opioid, baby powder, and Risperdal settlements.
Risperdal and Gynecomastia
A controlled case study looking at the link between Risperdal use and gynecomastia found that Risperidone/Risperdal is associated with an increased risk of gynecomastia in adolescent and young adult males. The study stated that “users of risperidone had approximately four times the risk of developing gynecomastia than non-users…[and w]hen the analysis was stratified to children and adolescents (≤18 years of age) taking risperidone, the risk of gynecomastia was five times higher than for non-users” . This link is exactly why so many victims of this unfortunate side effect have been able to file suit.
The reason for the breath growth while taking Risperdal is due to an increase in a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin is a peptide hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is primarily associated with lactation and plays a vital role in breast development in women.
Recent Reduction in Risperdal Lawsuits $8 Billion Reward
A recent development has brought to light that the fight for justice against Johnson & Johnson has not ended. A Pennsylvania judge of the Court of Common Pleas reduced the reward amount of a successful case against Johnson & Johnson from $8 Billion to $6.8 million. While $6.8 million dollars is no small amount of money, the scope of the reduction is akin to reducing thousands of dollars to a few single bills. So far there has been no reason given for the reduction by the Pennsylvania judge yet it is not entirely unusual for these reductions to occur after a case. The plaintiff of the reduced case, Maryland resident Nicholas Murray, is only one of many thousands of people affected by Risperdal’s dangerous side effects and who deserve compensation for the damages they suffered as a result.
Filing a lawsuit against Risperdal
If you or a loved one have experienced gynecomastia, heart disease, pneumonia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, tardive dyskensia, or death following the use of Risperdal, you may be entitled to recover for your injuries and losses. Additionally, it may be proven that OMJ and Johnson & Johnson intentionally marketed Risperdal for non-approved uses and intentionally undersold the serious risks associated with the drug. In this case, Risperdal’s manufacturers may be required to pay punitive damages—money paid by wrongdoers as punishment for their wrongful acts.
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