Jury Finds Risperdal Breast Growth Warnings Insufficient, But Returns Defense Verdict
A Philadelphia jury has ruled that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit failed to adequately warn the medical community that side effects of Risperdal may cause male breast growth, known as gynecomastia. However, the same jury returned a defense verdict in a “bellwether” trial, finding that insufficient evidence was presented to establish that a Pennyslvania teen’s abnormal breast growth was actually caused by use of the antipsychotic medication.
On March 20, a jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please declined to award any damages to 19 year-old William Cirba, who alleged he was diagnosed with gynecomastia following use of Risperdal more than seven years ago.
The case was the second in a series of “bellwether” trials scheduled in Pennsylvania, where more than 1,300 similar Risperdal lawsuits are being pursued against Johnson & Johnson and their Janssen subsidiary.
Gynecomastia is a medical condition linked to the use of Risperdal among young boys, which involves the development of full male breasts, often requiring surgical removal and causing severe psychological injury.
The defense verdict comes one month after another jury awarded $2.5 million in damages in a Risperdal trial involving a claim brought by 20 year-old Austin Pledger, which raised nearly identical allegations.
While the outcomes of the cases are not binding on other claims, they are being closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, as they may influence negotiations to reach Risperdal settlements that would avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled.
Johnson & Johnson has been quietly dealing with breast growth litigation over Risperdal for years, but the number of cases has continued to grow as more families and young adults learn that there may be a link between problems suffered following a diagnosis of gynecomastia and Risperdal use as a child.
In 2012, a different series of cases were scheduled to go before juries in Philadelphia, but the drug maker reached agreements to settle the Risperdal lawsuits just as the trials were set to begin.
Following this most recent trial, Cirba’s attorneys indicated that they plan to appeal an earlier decision that prevented them from pursuing punitive damages against Janssen for reckless behavior and wanton disregard. During the trial they brought evidence suggesting the company knew that the risk of gynecomastia for years but hid the risks from doctors and the FDA.
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