Patients taking the psychiatric medication Invega, approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, face a range of side effects, some of which can persist even after the patient stops taking the drug.
Invega (paliperidone) is made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Invega is a member of the class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics, which also includes Zyprexa (olanzapine), Clozaril (clozapine), Risperdal (risperidone), and Seroquel (quetiapine). These medications ease psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Invega in 2006 for individuals 12 and older.
People taking Invega can suffer milder side effects like nausea, vomiting, or difficulty having a bowel movement. Women taking Invega report missed or irregular periods, or the cessation of periods. Some patients experience headaches, restlessness, drowsiness, or weight gain, Topclassactions.com reports.
Invega users can also experience more serious side effects involving movement-related problems. The person may have trouble walking or may experience loss of balance. Some people report trembling, jerkiness, or muscle stiffness and some say they have experienced an increase in body movement or loss of control of movements, particularly in the face, neck and back. Some patients reported drooling or difficulty speaking. Patients experiencing such symptoms should seek medical attention.
In addition to these side effects, Invega can cause breast growth—gynecomastia—in male users. Gynecomastia can be the result of an alteration in the normal balance of hormones and Invega can cause the pituitary gland to produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates breast growth and milk production in women, and at higher-than-normal levels, it can have the same effect in men. They can develop breasts as large as a woman’s breasts. Though gynecomastia can sometimes reverse without treatment once the cause is removed (for example, the person stops taking Invega), in some cases surgery may be necessary to restore normal male appearance. Any surgery involves risks, and the patient has to be prepared for pain and limitations during the recovery period.
While gynecomastia is generally not considered a medically dangerous condition, it can create psychological issues, especially on younger patients. Younger males in particular are vulnerable to teasing and bullying from their peers because of their appearance and a teenage boy with gynecomastia will often avoid places and activities where males normally go shirtless. Gynecomastia can compound the difficulties for adolescents who already suffer social problems because of the mental illness for which they are taking medication. A study published in 2013 found that teenage boys with gynecomastia had lower levels of social functioning, self-esteem and mental health, as well as lower general health scores.
Janssen has already paid $2.2 billion in civil and criminal penalties to settle charges that it improperly marketed another atypical psychotic, Risperdal, for use in elderly nursing home patients to control agitation, confusion, and other symptoms of dementia. The FDA had specifically declined approval for use of Risperdal in that population and the agency also noted that the drug was associated with the risk for strokes in elderly patients.