Christopher (last name withheld upon request) cares for and lives with his disabled father. He doesn’t get out much and that suits him. “I have really sore breasts and never know when I am going to have a discharge,” Christopher explains. “They only leak occasionally but I keep myself covered up - it is quite embarrassing if anyone notices.” Now 26 years old, Christopher can’t remember how old he was when Risperdal was first prescribed, but he does remember why he took the anti-psychotic drug.
“I was a little hellion in school and my mom always told me that I was ‘quite a handful’ but I don’t remember being diagnosed with any specific disorder,” Christopher says. Rispderal has been prescribed off-label to children as young as five years old, and for issues as minor as irritability - perhaps more for the parents than their children.
Attorneys of Risperdal victims have accused Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, of failing to warn doctors and the public about its risk of male breast growth (known as gynecomastia) and that it engaged in a strategy to promote off-label use of Risperdal in children, among other charges. To date, four out of five juries found that Rispderal caused gynecomastia and the fifth jury hit Janssen with a $70 million verdict.
According to one attorney, Christopher hasn’t developed male breasts to an extent that he has a claim against Janssen, even though the area is “tender and a bit swollen” and he has the “occasional discharge”. It has caused Christopher a lot of mental anguish but he is glad that other young men, some of whom were constantly bullied throughout their childhood and teen years, had their day in court. And they prevailed. (An undisclosed number of Risperdal victims have reached settlements out of court.)
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Fortunately the health care giant has deep pockets (it reported worldwide sales of more than $70 billion in 2015): More than 1,750 Risperdal cases are pending in Philadelphia and so far J&J does not have a good track record.