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Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle a Risperdal lawsuit this week, resolving a case that claimed their antipsychotic drugs can cause substantial male breast growth.
The settlement came as trial was about to begin for a lawsuit brought by 21-year-old Aaron Banks, who alleged that he grew breast due to Risperdal side effects, causing him to suffer psychological trauma and undergo surgery to have the breasts removed.
Banks’ case was the first of several dozen Risperdal male breast growth lawsuits that was scheduled to reach a jury. Some of the cases also involved use of the schizophrenia medication Invega, which contains the primary active metabolite of Risperdal.
The complaints all involve similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutica subsidiary failed to adequately warn about the risk of breast growth among teen boys given the antipsychotic medications.
Side effects of Risperdal and Invega increase the risk that boys may experience dramatic breast growth, according to allegations raised in the complaints. In some cases, boys grew breasts measuring as large as a 38D cup after using the medications.
Risperdal also increases the risk of significant weight gain, and in many cases doctors initially miss or dismiss signs of male breast growth, assuming it is connected to increases in weight. However, surgical breast removal or reduction may be necessary in some cases due to the unnatural growth.
While Risperdal currently carries a warning that unusual breast growth could be a side effect of the medication, the lawsuits allege that the risks were not properly emphasized and that manufacturers downplayed the severity and numbers involved. According to prescribing information packaged with the drug, 2.3% of adolescents in clinical trials experienced breast growth due to elevated levels of the hormone prolactin.
Most of the cases filed throughout the United States are pending in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, which had scheduled the Banks’ lawsuit to serve as a “bellwether” trial, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout many cases. The Risperdal settlement was announced on the first day of the scheduled trial, but no details have been released about the terms of the agreement.