Risperdal is an antipsychotic drug that has been inappropriately marketed to children. Made by Johnson & Johnson, the drug is meant to control symptoms of schizophrenia and episodes related to bipolar disorder. But Johnson & Johnson promoted it for use on children with a variety of conditions such as ADHD—even without clearance from the FDA. As a result some children have been seriously harmed, especially young boys.
It’s now known that taking Risperdal can cause some boys to develop enlarged breasts. The drug can cause the growth of breasts in boys both before and during puberty, a condition known as gynecomastia. Gynecomastia can derail the life of a young boy, not only carrying a social stigma but also causing physical pain and psychological harm. In many cases the condition requires surgery.
If you or someone you love has been harmed by taking Risperdal, you are not alone. The attorneys of John Foy & Associates are now investigating possible lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for their reckless behavior. You could have a case to receive a financial recovery that would pay for your medical bills, treatment, therapy and other expenses. Let us give you a free consultation to discuss your case. Call 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.
How can Risperdal cause boys to develop breasts?
Male breast growth or gynecomastia is a well known disorder that’s typically caused by an imbalance in hormones. It involves a swelling of the glands inside the breast. In a small percentage of boys, gynecomastia can happen naturally, but it appears that boys taking Risperdal are at much higher risk—and that Risperdal itself is what causes it.
Risperdal does this by causing the body to develop higher levels of prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates breast growth in women. Men normally have very low levels of this hormone, and if the amount of prolactin is too high a male can develop visible breasts.
The link between Risperdal and breast growth is more than just conjecture. A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, confirmed that adolescents taking Risperdal had elevated prolactin levels. It showed that the dose of Risperdal (or risperidone, its generic name) used to treat psychotic symptoms is enough to trigger this condition. And in the study, three out of 10 adolescent patients developed gynecomastia.
That rate is astonishingly high, and it supports what we have seen in the courts. Out of the hundreds of lawsuits filed over Risperdal, it appears that at least 130 involve boys who suffered from gynecomastia.
What effects does gynecomastia have on boys?
The affects of gynecomastia are more than cosmetic. The condition can be painful and often leads to serious harm. Some of the effects boys may have to live with include:
- Many boys who develop gynecomastia report pain in the breasts or around the nipples. This pain can be intermittent or ongoing.
- Some boys report discharge from the nipples.
- Delayed puberty. Doctors who have studied Risperdal’s link to gynecomastia warn that it’s not clear how prolactin levels or breast growth affect puberty. They have raised the question of whether puberty could be delayed by the hormone, and whether boys won’t grow as much as they otherwise would.
The effects of gynecomastia aren’t just physical. One of the most serious effects is on a boy’s emotional development and mental health. Growing breasts is not something boys are proud of, and they often face teasing or even bullying at school. Some boys may try to hide their breasts, or they may avoid school and social encounters altogether. Gynecomastia can cost an adolescent his friends, his academic career, and ultimately a lot of his happiness.
This stress and pain translates directly to psychological trauma. Boys with gynecomastia score lower on quality of life assessments, especially for mental health, social functioning and self esteem. They can become seriously depressed. During the crucial adolescent years, this kind of psychological damage can have a lasting impact.
Do adolescents with gynecomastia need treatment?
Most boys with gynecomastia will need some kind of treatment. If given time, some cases of gynecomastia may pass on their own, but many will not—or they will take years to go away. Psychologists urge that treatment should come as early as possible, to minimize psychological distress. The longer the condition goes on, the more seriously it affects a boy’s self esteem and emotional health. But the treatment for gynecomastia is not minor—it’s breast reduction surgery. By surgically removing tissue from the breasts, boys can return to a normal sized chest.
Adolescents will also typically need therapy to deal with the trauma of developing gynecomastia.
Is Johnson & Johnson liable for what Risperdal has done?
Yes. Johnson & Johnson has consistently acted in an unethical, callous way with regard to the wellbeing of Risperdal patients. The company marketed Risperdal to children’s mental health clinics as early as 1999, despite not getting approval for any pediatric use until 2006. They covered up the data that Risperdal raises prolactin levels, and even paid kickbacks to doctors who agreed to prescribe it. The company knew the dangers to child patients, and did it anyway.
Johnson & Johnson has already been found criminally liable for their actions. In 2013 they agreed to pay a $2.2 billion settlement for their illegal and inappropriate marketing campaign. But this doesn’t help the individual patients who live with the after effects of Risperdal every day of their lives.
If you or your son or loved one developed gynecomastia while using Risperdal, don’t wait. You are entitled to make a full financial recovery that can help you put your life back together. This can help you pay for therapy, surgery, or past medical bills. But there is a statute of limitations in every state. If you wait too long, you will miss your chance.
The attorneys of John Foy & Associates can help you. We’re one of the most experienced medical injury law firms in the country. We offer a FREE consultation and we charge you nothing unless we get you a financial recovery. Call 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.