Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by a Philadelphia jury to pay $2.5 million to a 20-year-old autistic man from Alabama – who developed size 46 DD breasts as a young teenager – because the company failed to adequately warn of that potential side effect from his use of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
This was the first Risperdal case to go to jury that was related to the condition gynecomastia – which causes abnormal development of breasts in males. The lawsuit claimed that J&J had knowingly hid the risks of gynecomastia, and came after several other similar cases were settled in recent years.
A significant moment came during this trial when former FDA commissioner David Kessler, who served as a paid expert witness for the family, testified that J&J knew about the risks associated with Risperdal, but failed to disclose the data showing the extent to which youngsters may develop gynecomastia. In a report for an earlier case, Kessler had written a strongly worded rebuke accusing J&J’s Janssen unit, which marketed the drug, of flagrantly violating the law.
This case also served as a reminder that only two years ago Johnson & Johnson paid $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations of illegally marketing Risperdal to children and the elderly.
I believe that there will be more lawsuits brought to bear against J&J. The company originally marketed the drug as a safe treatment for children with ADHD – in spite of the fact Risperdal wasn’t approved for use with children until 2006. In this trial, and in earlier settlements, it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson’s own internal research had shown that children were susceptible to certain health risks from taking Risperdal including the possibility that boys could develop breasts through elevated production of the hormone prolactin – yet they continued to market the drug.
The irresponsible disregard Johnson & Johnson has shown for the wellbeing of the patients they serve is appalling. Even after learning of the dangers, they recklessly marketed Risperdal knowing that it could cause gynecomastia. Corporate profit, not patient safety, guided their decision-making. At Saunders & Walker we will continue to accept and file lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for any patients who have ben adversely affected as a result of taking Risperdal.