An attempt was made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to overturn the largest award seen to date in a $70 million Risperdal gynecomastia verdict. The Pennsylvania judge presiding over the matter refused the request made by the manufacturer of J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals division to reduce the award.
A young man began taking Risperdal in 2003 at the age of 5, to treat psychiatric problems. Risperdal was initially used to treat schizophrenia, but is also used for bipolar disorder and autism. It was not until 2013, that the man filed a lawsuit as he had developed abnormally large breasts, a condition called gynecomastia.
Risperdal functions by blocking dopamine receptors. A side effect can be higher levels of prolactin, a hormone manufactured by the pituitary gland. Pregnant women have high levels of prolactin, a hormone that helps produce breast milk.
When prolactin levels that are normally low in men are elevated, it can result in hyperprolactinemia resulting in “man boobs.” The medical term is gynecomastia. These breasts in men and boys may even produce a white milky discharge.
More than 90 percent of patients on Risperdal experience elevated prolactin levels, according to the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority. Although Risperdal can cause weight gain, losing weight may not decrease the size of the “man boobs.” The increase in breast size is not only fatty tissue, but glandular tissue as well, so only surgery can reduce breast size.
The young man involved in the lawsuit was teased mercilessly by his peers as the boy developed breasts, reports the father. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Risperdal in 2002, but was not approved for children until 2006. Janssen is accused of promoting Risperdal for children from 1999 to 2005, before the FDA gave the approval for use in young people.
J&J is currently fighting more than 12,000 Risperdal-related claims. The recent Risperdal verdict can serve to help plaintiffs in similar cases.