News of disturbing Risperdal side effects in boys and young men have prompted hundreds of lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson’s unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Risperdal, also known as risperidone, has been linked to a condition known as gynecomastia, characterized by the breast development in boys.
Risperdal is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults, adolescents and children with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability in people with autism. It is occasionally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, however this use is not approved by the FDA. Some doctors have also prescribed Risperdal for anxiety, anger management and dementia, which are also off-label uses.
Risperdal side effects include hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia and weight gain, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In some cases, patients taking Risperdal have developed extremely high blood sugar that resulted in coma or death.
The latest Risperdal side effect in children is even more troubling. Researchers believe the drug may increase levels of prolactin, a hormone that enables women to produce milk after they give birth. In boys and young men, this can have detrimental effects. Symptoms of gynecomastia include tender and painful breasts, nipple discharge, and breast tissue development which is sometimes uneven. Not only are the symptoms uncomfortable, they can be embarrassing, causing emotional and psychological problems.
The symptoms of gynecomastia can last years. For some, the symptoms do not subside and medical intervention is needed. Treatment includes medications such as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, or surgeries such as liposuction to remove breast fat or mastectomy to remove the breast gland tissue.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals faces hundreds of Risperidal lawsuits alleging executives knew Risperdal could cause boys to grow female breasts but actively hid those risks from doctors and patients.