By Desiree Housek, Staff Writer
Families have been filing legal claims against Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, which is responsible for Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug. The drug has been associated with causing male breast tissue enlargement, a condition known as gynecomastia.
In 2006 and 2007, the FDA approved additional uses for Risperdal including bipolar disorder in adults and children, schizophrenia in children, and behavioral disorders caused by autism in children. Shortly after, reports of serious adverse effects began to surface.
The family of Austin Pledger, who began taking the drug in 2002 when he was 7 years old, brought the first lawsuit against the company after he later developed size 46 DD breasts. The case garnered the attention of the public, as it was the first to go to trial after a number of settlements, claiming J&J hid the risks of gynecomastia.
In February of 2015, attorney Thomas Kline of Kline & Specter won the first Risperdal verdict in Philadelphia with the jury awarding $2.5 million to the plaintiff. There are currently over 1,200 children who have been reported to have serious adverse events, and 31 deaths allegedly connected with the use of Risperdal.
To date, the manufacturers of Risperdal have paid billions of dollars in fines, criminal penalties, and lawsuit settlements with additional lawsuits under way.
Attorneys for the victims have claimed that J&J and its subsidiary Janssen used illegal marketing to promote Risperdal for unapproved uses, minimizing and not adequately warning of the risks involved even after they were aware of the threats of movement disorders, gynecomastia, and possibility of death.