Risperdal (risperidone) is a medication used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders in children and adults. Some doctors also prescribe Risperdal off-label (meaning that it is given for a condition other than what has been approved by the FDA) for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
A serious side effect of Risperdal is the abnormal growth of breast and glandular tissue in boys and men. This condition is called gynecomastia, and it is caused by high levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates breast growth and lactation in women) that result from use of the medication.
Patients may experience varying levels of growth in one or both breasts, and in some cases may discharge breast milk. Severe cases may result in significant breast growth, comparable to a women’s cup size D or larger.
Patients suffering from gynecomastia often face considerable social stigma and isolation. Boys and young men may experience extreme emotional distress as a result of negative reactions from peers (including teasing and bullying). Mental health conditions such as those the medication is intended to treat – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder – are in and of themselves extremely challenging. A damaging side effect such as this has the potential to increase the level of anxiety and depression that may already accompany these diseases.
In some cases, surgery may be required to resolve gynecomastia. Options may include liposuction, breast reduction surgery, or mastectomy.
Several hundred lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals due to damages caused by Risperdal