Powerful drugs come with powerful side effects. Risperdal effectively treats several mental illnesses, but can also cause significant damage. One such complication is prepubescent men growing enlarged male breasts while taking Risperdal.
Why Doctors Prescribe Risperdal
Risperdal is a powerful antipsychotic originally formulated to treat schizophrenia. Since it hit the market, doctors have prescribed it for a broader range of symptoms. That means Risperdal’s severe side effects hurt more people than were originally studied, and consumers are unknowingly testing the drug’s limits.
For well over a decade, doctors prescribed Risperdal for ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, and other behavioral problems or mental illnesses. Before 2006, Risperdal was only approved for adults. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) subsequently cleared it for most age groups, including children.
Beneath Risperdal’s benefits is a hidden side effect patients should’ve known about: gynecomastia.
What is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is essentially the formation of male breasts. While many drugs are criticized for causing weight gain, gynecomastia’s in a class of its own. Actual male breasts begin as small “breast buds” located directly beneath the nipple. As glandular tissue fills those lumps, breasts—actual, female-like breasts—develop. In extreme cases, men taking Risperdal can even lactate with breasts equivalent to women’s size DD. Breasts often grow unevenly, with one much larger than the other. This serious Risperdal complication can be extremely painful and humiliating to victims as well as their families.
Psychological Damage as a Side Effect of Enlarged Male Breasts
Ironically, an antipsychotic treating illnesses like schizophrenia, anxiety and ADHD caused more psychological damage due to gynecomastia.
Young boys and even older men who developed gynecomastia while taking Risperdal suffer emotional damage. Doctors often prescribe young boys Risperdal to counter depression and/or suicidal thoughts. When boys begin to suffer from Risperdal’s side effects, they may become the brunt of teasing and bullying. That social abuse often leads back to the depression and suicidal thoughts they began taking the medication to counter. Marketed specifically to pediatricians, Risperdal’s major side effect was not warned about until recently, when men and boys began to come forward.
How Does the Science Work?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes psychotic problems and episodes. Risperdal effectively blocks dopamine production, giving it antipsychotic properties. This helps calm irritability and other psychological symptoms. However, dopamine also suppresses prolactin in men and boys. Prolactin is a naturally occurring female hormone that spurs breast growth and lactation. So when Risperdal blocks dopamine, prolactin levels freely increase. Excess prolactin in men then leads to breast growth and lactation, just as it does in women.
The science is relatively simple. It’s so simple, in fact, that many physicians are outraged that Risperdal’s manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), didn’t disclose the gynecomastia risk.
Justice for Risperdal’s illegal marketing is available. If you or a loved one developed gynecomastia while taking Risperdal, you may be eligible to file a Risperdal lawsuit.
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.