Risperdal is a well-known anti-psychotic medication that is produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of the world’s largest medical manufacture Johnson & Johnson. Risperdal is also sold under its generic drug name, Risperidone, and in a slightly different form known as Invega (paloperidone). The drug works by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin.
When it was introduced, Risperdal was hailed as a “next generation” drug that was going to be a safer version of an older drug called Haldol (haloperidol). During the drug’s existence, Risperdal has earned Johnson & Johnson over $40 billion in sales and continues to bring over $3 billion in yearly earnings. However, that is not the only figure they can boast, since Risperdal is also responsible for thousands of injuries, countless emotional pain, and a few hundred deaths.
Risperdal came onto the market in 1993 when the FDA approved the drug for treatment of schizophrenia in adults. It was later approved to treat schizophrenia in children, bipolar disorder in adolescents, and behavioral disorders associated with autism. It has also been used off-label to treat a number of other conditions. Soon, though, lawsuits were brought out on by Johnson & Johnson’s misleading marketing of Risperdal.
Side Effects of Risperdal
Risperdal can cause everything from harmful, yet more common side effects to very serious, life-threatening side effects. Of course, all medications have side effects, but few have been as irresponsible and as dangerous as Risperdal. Common Risperdal side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Fatigue or sedation
Risperdal is also known for its drug interactions, which result in:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Nausea medications (Anzemet, Zofran)
- Beta-blockers (Coreg, Toprol, and others)
- Epilepsy medications (Geodon, Topamax)
- Antiarrhythmics (amiodarone, procainamide)
- Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro, Avelox)
- Immunomodulators (Xalkori, Gilenya)
- Platelet inhibitors (Plavix)
- Increased sedation
- Pain medications
- Anxiety medications
- Other anti-psychotics
- Increased risk of seizure
- X-ray imaging agents
Side Effects of Risperidone
In addition to common side effects, Risperdal causes serious adverse effects which have been extremely dangerous to many different people. Both Risperidone and Risperdal side effects can be permanent, humiliating, and increase the risk of death.
The most serious side effects include:
Breast Development in Boys
Risperdal has been known to cause male breast growth, called gynecomastia in young boys; some of the affected patients have even been as young as four. This breast growth occurs as Risperdal causes a secretion of a hormone called prolactin which is responsible for fatty tissue growth and contributes to lactation. As one could imagine, breast tissue growth in boys often causes serious emotional problems, and is usually permanent without surgery.
Johnson & Johnson has faced multiple lawsuits over the years to address this horrendous problem.
Lactation in Young Girls
The same secretion of prolactin from Risperdal that is responsible for the male breath growth can also cause an increase or early onset of female lactation or milk production. When you pair this with Risperdal being prescribed to young girls, you end up with school-age girls growing breasts very early and producing milk. This event can be just as traumatizing to girls as it can be for boys, as one can imagine.
The overproduction of prolactin can also cause an absence of menstrual cycles in females and delayed growth. Life is tough enough as a young person, especially around the age of puberty; the dangerous side effects of Risperdal only exasperate the emotional stress.
Risperdal has another serious side effect that has been widely publicized and has created some legal issues for Johnson & Johnson. This dangerous side effect involves movement disorders which can become worse over time. These abrupt, often violent movements are known as extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) and can be permanent even after Risperdal is discontinued.
Symptoms of EPS often include:
- Tremors similar to those caused by Parkinson’s disease
- Drooling or inability to control mouth muscles
- Facial Tics
- Abnormal head, shoulder, and limb movements (Tardive Dyskinesia)
- Restlessness or inability to stay still (akathisia)
- Loss of voluntary movement (akinesia)
- Stiffening of the tongue and/or jerking chin toward neck (torticollis)
All of these side effects can create their own new, potentially dangerous or deadly side-effects. For example, torticollis can cause suffocation from an inability to move one’s tongue. Tremors or tics can cause unexpected movements that can be extremely dangerous near things like stairs or ledges.
Death in Elderly Persons
One of the most disturbing dangerous side effects of Risperdal is the increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia. These elderly dementia patients died from pneumonia, cardiac failure, or stroke while taking Risperdal. Because of this disturbing trend and the clear correlation, the FDA required that a so-called “black box warning” be placed on Risperdal.
A black box warning is the most severe warning the FDA issues and is so named because of thick, black border surrounding the warning on the packaging; it is meant to be highly visible.
Heart Problems and Death
Numerous studies have shown that Risperdal can interfere with the electrical impulses that regulate the heart’s rhythm. This can cause cardiac arrhythmia which in turn can lead to cardiac arrest and/or death. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that users of atypical antipsychotic drugs like Risperdal had a rate of sudden cardiac death that was more than twice the rate for those not on Risperdal.
For a full list of side effects, view WebMD’s Risperdal page.
Contact an Attorney for Help Filing a Risperdal or Risperidone Lawsuit
If you or your child have been injured by Risperdal, Risperidone, or Ivega, contact the experienced defective drug attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We are well-known for pursuing large corporations and making them pay for their negligence. You can contact us by calling our office at (833) 606-DRUG  or by filling out our contact form.
Study on Risperidone and gynecomastia –https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23234586
Scientific American on benefits versus risks for Risperdal – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/widely-used-autism-drug-carries-heavy-risks-for-children/