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A Philadelphia jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.5 million in damages to a 20 year-old man who experienced substantial breast growth from side effects of Risperdal, a popular antipsychotic medication he took when a child.
The month-long Risperdal trial concluded yesterday, involving a lawsuit filed by Austin Pledger, who alleged that inadequate warnings were provided about the risk that boys and young men using Risperdal may develop a medical condition known as gynecomastia, which involves the development of full male breasts, often requiring surgical removal and causing severe psychological injury.
The case is one of about 1,250 Risperdal breast growth lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson and their Janssen subsidiary in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where all similar complaints filed throughout the Pennsylvania state court system are centralized as part of a mass-tort.
Pledger started taking Risperdal for treatment of Risperdal in 2002, when he was 8 years-old. He indicates that he stopped using the medication in 2006, but was left with abnormal breast growth.
During trial, testimony was presented that suggested Johnson & Johnson knew about the Risperdal gynecomastia risk as early as 2001, but chose not to update the warnings provided to parents and the medical community until 2006, the same year it was approved for sale to children. However, even then, many critics maintain the warnings were not strong enough.
After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury concluded that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit was negligent for failing to adequately warn about the risk of gynecomastia from Risperdal, and awarded $2.5 million in damages.
While Johnson & Johnson has suggested that it intends to appeal the verdict, the case has been closely watched by lawyers involved in the Risperdal litigation, as it is the first lawsuit to go before a jury and may help gauge how other juries will respond to similar evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other cases.
While the outcome of this case is not binding on any other claims, it may impact potential negotiations to reach Risperdal gynecomastia 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.