The Pennsylvania Superior Court is considering the appeal of a recent jury award in a Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit. The appeals panel has the chance to chance to decide whether punitive damages will be allowed in similar trials. The trial judge, Kenneth J. Powell, has encouraged the Superior Court to uphold the jury’s decision.
The plaintiff in the case under appeal was awarded $500,000 by the jury, which accepted the allegations that the psychiatric medication Risperdal (risperidone) had caused his gynecomastia, excessive breast growth in a male. The award was later increased by over $35,000 due to delay damages.
The jury found that Janssen Pharmaceuticals had failed to warn about the breast growth risk and that the young man’s gynecomastia was attributable to the company’s negligence. The lawsuit indicated that the boy had taken Risperdal from 2006 to 2009 to treat Tourette’s syndrome and developed gynecomastia developed as a result of the drug. The attorneys argued that Janssen had ample information about the possibility of gynecomastia yet failed to inform doctors or the public patients.
This Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit is one of many pending in a mass tort litigation program in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Three other cases have thus far gone to trial. One plaintiff was awarded $2.5 million in damages, and a third was awarded $1.75 million. In the fourth trial, the jury was not satisfied that Risperdal caused the plaintiff’s breast growth, though the jury did call Janssen negligent for not warning of the possibility of gynecomastia.
In addition to allegations gynecomastia, the plaintiffs alleged that Janssen and its parent company J&J unlawfully promoted Risperdal for use in younger patients before Risperdal received FDA approval for this age group. At one trial, a former J&J sales manager said J&J trained its sales force to promote Risperdal for use in children as early as 2003, before the FDA has approved any use in children.
Families that have brought lawsuits say Janssen ignored the risk of gynecomastia in marketing the drug for children. While gynecomastia is not a medically serious condition, it can cause emotional distress in young males who develop female breasts. These adolescents may be teased or bullied because of their appearance and they avoid locker rooms and other places where they will have to be shirtless. Most of these boys already suffer social problems because of the mental illness for which they are being treated. For serious cases of gynecomastia, surgery may be the only option to restore a normal male appearance. The young men undergo either liposuction or mastectomy.
Risperdal marketing was under investigation by the attorneys general of dozens of states. The officials accused J&J of withholding information about dangerous side effects of some of its drugs, including the gynecomastia associated with Risperdal. In August 2012 Janssen and J&J agreed to a $181 million in settlement. Similar investigations by the states of Texas and Montana also resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements.