On June 30, A Philadelphia jury found that the antipsychotic drug Risperdal had caused a Tennessee boy to grow female breasts, and handed down a $70 verdict on the drug’s manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
The case was the fifth Risperdal lawsuit to go on trial in Philadelphia, and yielded the largest verdict so far, although Janssen plans to appeal. Previous awards have ranged from $500,000 to $2.2 million.
What is Risperdal?
Risperdal is an anti-psychotic drug that was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 to treat adults with schizophrenia. During 2006 and 2007, the FDA approved additional uses for Risperdal, including the treatment of bipolar disorder in adults and juveniles, schizophrenia in children, and certain behavioral symptoms in children with autism.
Risperdal works as an antipsychotic to block the activity of dopamine in certain areas of the brain. However, blocking dopamine also has an effect on the pituitary gland, causing a number of metabolic disruptions and resulting in the release of a hormone known as prolactin. Prolactin is responsible for stimulating breast tissue development and causing lactation in pregnant and nursing women, and for causing gynecomastia in adolescent males and in children as young as four.
Gynecomastia is a condition in which boys and men develop tender and swollen breasts. Surgery is often required to correct the condition, although liposuction can be effective in removing excess breast tissue in mild to moderate cases. In more severe cases, patients may need a mastectomy to remove breast tissue and excess breast skin.
Research Says Risperdal Use Leads to Increased Risk of Gynecomastia
A 2014 study presented at an annual meeting of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry concluded that users of Risperdal might face as much as a 69 percent increased risk of gynecomastia compared to those who have not taken the medication. Because of the study’s results, researchers suggested that doctors prescribe Zyprexa or Seroquel to males instead of Risperdal to reduce the chances of developing gynecomastia and other harmful conditions and side effects.