Risperdal was developed by Johnson & Johnson and has been on the market for over 20 years. During that time, countless people have been hurt by the side effects of the medication. This antipsychotic was repeatedly prescribed to children despite the manufacturer knowing of significant risks, such as gynecomastia. Young boys developed female breasts and even discharged a milky white substance due to increased prolactin levels in their systems.
Johnson & Johnson knew about the problems with Risperdal but hid the risks from the general public. Many people were hurt and several lawsuits have helped victims recover millions in compensation. Here, we'll discuss the issues with Risperdal and its history.
What Is Risperdal?
Risperdal (risperidone) is a powerful antipsychotic medication. It is designed to treat mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, symptoms of autism, and schizophrenia. It operates by balancing serotonin and dopamine levels in a person's brain. These chemicals regulate behaviors, thoughts, and moods, so balancing them is designed to help prevent errant behavior or dangerous thoughts.
The medication is usually taken by mouth with water. Side effects may include allergic reactions, high blood sugar, seizures, thoughts of suicide, and much more. Many of these side effects were properly disclosed and the public was warned, while the manufacturer purposely concealed one in particular.
What Is the Problem With Risperdal?
Many investigations have shown that Johnson & Johnson purposefully failed to warn about the known danger of taking Risperdal. Risperdal can cause young boys to develop female breasts. This condition is called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia causes an increase in breast gland tissue in men and young boys. This is usually caused by an imbalance of estrogen or testosterone levels but is also caused by Risperdal use.
Investigators and researchers linked prolonged use of Risperdal to gynecomastia. They demonstrated an increase in prolactin levels, especially in young boys. As many as 3 in 10 children taking Risperdal are at risk of developing gynecomastia.
Other Side Effects of Risperdal
Risperdal is also known to cause the following severe side effects:
- Lactation. Girls and young boys have experienced lactation and the discharge of a milky white substance from their nipples. This is referred to as galactorrhea.
- Diabetes. Those who are pre-diabetic or with current diabetes may see their condition worsen after taking Risperdal.
- Movement Issues. Many children prescribed Risperdal reported movement disorders like akathisia, akinesia, and torticollis.
- Irregular Heartbeats. An irregular heartbeat can create serious health risks or even the risk of a heart attack.
- Priapism. Priapism causes a prolonged and often painful penis erection.
History of Risperdal and Related Lawsuits
Risperdal has been on the market since 1993. The following timeline provides a brief history of this medication.
- 1993. Risperdal was officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating schizophrenia in adults.
- April 2005. The FDA added a black box warning after they learned that Risperdal could cause a heightened risk of death in elderly adults with dementia.
- June 2006. A study from Duke University demonstrated that Risperdal caused male breast growth. The study also showed that Risperdal had an increased risk of this side effect as compared to other antipsychotic drugs. It further showed that female children often lactated before puberty.
- August 2007. The FDA approved Risperdal to treat schizophrenia in children between 13 and 17 years of age. It also approved the drug for treating bipolar disorder in children aged 10 to 17.
- November 2008. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Risperdal caused prolactin production in boys. The FDA met on this issue but did not require a strengthened warning on the medication.
- July 2010. The first Risperdal lawsuit was filed. A man who took the drug between 1999 and 2004 filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson claiming emotional trauma from breast growth caused by the drug.
- June 2011. Johnson & Johnson recalled Risperidone 2mg tablets and Risperdal 3mg tablets after patients reported a strange odor coming from the medication.
- 2012. The Department of Justice began an investigation of Johnson & Johnson's practices regarding Risperdal.
- August 2012. The manufacturer settled a lawsuit with the District of Columbia and 36 states for $181 million about the marketing of Risperdal.
- September 2012. As of this date, approximately 420 lawsuits had been filed in courts throughout the U.S. about the side effects of Risperdal. Many of these lawsuits claimed that the medication caused gynecomastia without appropriate patient warnings.
- October 2012. Johnson & Johnson settled five more gynecomastia settlements.
- November 2013. Johnson & Johnson pled guilty in a criminal case for aggressively marketing the drug for off-label uses. They also admitted to paying kickbacks to doctors who prescribed the medication and paid over $2.2 billion in civil and criminal fines.
- February 2015. A young boy who developed size 46 DD breasts from Risperdal won a $2.5 million verdict against the manufacturer.
- June 2016. A $76.6 million verdict was awarded against Johnson & Johnson.
- November 2021. Between 2016 and 2021, Johnson & Johnson settled nearly all of the pending Risperdal lawsuits.
This troubled history shows how Johnson & Johnson has been held responsible for their negligent and often purposeful actions in concealing the side effects of this drug. The manufacturer prioritized profit over the health of their patients, and many people were harmed as a result.
Compensation in Risperdal Lawsuits
Victims in Risperdal lawsuits received compensation for various harms they suffered, both economic and non-economic. These included damages such as:
- Past and future medical costs
- Costs of rehabilitation
- Lost income or lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and embarrassment
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages in certain cases
This compensation helped injured victims regain their lives and held defendants responsible for Risperdal's harm.
Dealing With Problems From Risperdal
If you took Risperdal at a young age, speak to your physician about any side effects you experienced. Protect your health and document any injuries you suffered. Speak with a Risperdal product liability attorney to determine if you also have any rights to compensation. Depending on your situation, you might be entitled to compensation in your case or as part of previous class action settlements.
- Cleveland Clinic. Risperidone Tablets.
- Mayo Clinic. Enlarged breasts in men (gynecomastia).
- National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information. Galactorrhea.
- National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information. Stat Pearls. Akathisia.
- National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information. Stat Pearls. Akinesia.
- National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information. Stat Pearls. Black Box Warning.
- Cleveland Clinic. Torticollis.
- Mayo Clinic. Priapism.