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The good: Risperidone, an antipsychotic marketed as Risperdal, can treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and reduce irritability and aggressive behavior in autistic children. The bad: studies of autistic boys prescribed Risperdal showed they can suffer from breast enlargement and diminished sexual functioning because of the drug. The ugly: Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals may have known about the risk and failed to warn doctors and patients.
A slew of recent lawsuits have been filed regarding the side effects of Risperdal -- here's what you need to know.
Those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, autism, or bi-polar disorder (or have a child who has) may have already heard of Risperdal. And while the drug may be effective in treating those conditions in some patients, the drug's hidden side effects have its manufacturers in trouble. Recently, Risperdal has been linked with increased levels of prolactin, a hormone regulated in the brain that, among others things, controls milk production. And where there are increased levels of prolactin, breast enlargement can follow.
The condition, known as gynecomastia, is twice as likely to develop in autistic boys aged 10 to 20 taking Risperdal, according to a 2012 study. The same patients were also 14 percent more likely to suffer some sexual dysfunction.
These new lawsuits claim Janssen knew about the elevated risk for gynecomastia as early as 2003, and failed to warn patients or doctors. Plaintiffs have also alleged that there are others drugs that have similar benefits in autistic patients only without the same side effects. One of those plaintiffs is a 20-year-old autistic Alabama man who had been taking Risperdal since he was 8. Austin Pledger ended up developing size 44D breasts, and successfully sued Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals for $2.5 million in damages.
Janssen has come under fire over how it has marketed Risperdal. Beginning in 2010, Janssen and parent company Johnson & Johnson were hit with a slew of lawsuits for Medicaid fraud and marketing Risperdal for off-label use. All of which led to a $2.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013. In fact, Austin Pledger was first prescribed the drug in 2002, years before the FDA approved it for autism treatment.
If you are one of the thousands who have suffered serious side effects from using Risperdal, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney about your claim.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.