Johnson & Johnson must pay $2.5 million in Risperdal damages to the family of a boy who developed size 46DD breasts. Austin Pledger was only 7 when he began taking Risperdal, which wasn’t yet approved for children. Thirteen years later, he’s still coping with the aftermath.
This is a landmark Risperdal lawsuit because it’s the first to claim Johnson & Johnson hid the drug’s gynecomastia risks. David Kessler, a witness for the family, testified about this point. According to Kessler, Johnson & Johnson significantly downplayed risperidone’s potential side effects in younger patients.
Risperdal and Male Breast Growth
In 2012, J&J paid more than $2 billion to resolve allegations they illegally marketed Risperdal to children and the elderly. Kessler also testified in this trial that the company advertised Risperdal for uses not yet FDA-approved. While doctors prescribe drugs as they see fit, pharmaceutical companies can’t advertise them for off-label uses. Austin Pledger began taking Risperdal in 2002 – and it was not approved by the FDA for use in adolescents until 2006.
Originally developed to treat schizophrenia, Risperdal is now prescribed to treat a wealth of mental health issues from anxiety to depression. Unfortunately, the drug also increases a patient’s level of prolactin, a hormone that spurs breast growth and lactation. While it can aggravate this process in developing females, its prevalence in adolescent boys can cause serious psychological trauma – trauma that’s often permanent.
Johnson & Johnson Responds to Risperdal Damages Ruling
While Johnson & Johnson is disappointed by the loss, they hope to overturn the ruling. They claim Risperdal side effects are adequately listed on the drug’s bottle. Moreover, Pledger and his doctor were well aware of Risperdal’s potential risks. Johnson & Johnson also believes that Pledger’s quality of life greatly improved with Risperdal, despite his gynecomastia.
Kessler, however, said Johnson & Johnson didn’t do enough to warn doctors and the FDA about potential side effects. The company’s sales rep visited pediatrician neurologist offices many times, but didn’t disclose gynecomastia risks. Pledger’s doctor in particular, Jan Mathisen, testified he was unaware that Risperdal gynecomastia was so prevalent in adolescent boys.
The company still faces 1,200 more lawsuits and hasn’t yet reached a settlement. Regardless, Johnson & Johnson must seriously consider whether to settle out of court or wait for a jury to award Risperdal damages.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you know took Risperdal and experienced male breast growth, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. It’s a good idea to speak with an attorney who is familiar with mass torts like these and can review your case before you proceed. Gynecomastia often necessitate surgery to remedy, and it can cause lifelong psychological effects, especially if you were young while taking the drug.
1. Silverman, Ed. “Johnson & Johnson Loses Trial Over Risperdal And Male Breasts.” The Wall Street Journal Pharmalot. February 24, 2015.
2. Sell, David. “Johnson & Johnson Loses First Risperdal Jury Trial.” Philly.com. February 25, 2015.
3. Staton, Tracy. “J&J Loses First Court Battle over Risperdal’s Breast-growth Side Effects.” FiercePharma. February 25, 2015.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.