Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Ramy Djerassi refused to grant Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals a new trial in one of the first of thousands of lawsuits against the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal, according to Law360.
The company was seeking a new trial as part of an effort to overturn a $2.5 million jury verdict that was awarded in 2015 to an Alabama man Austin Pledger. The jury determined that Janssen concealed data about Risperdal’s negative side effects, including the risk of a condition called gynecomastia, or the abnormal growth of breast tissue in young boys.
Janssen’s request for a new trial stemmed from a change in Austin’s expert witness during the trial. The drug maker claimed the change prevented it from conducting an effective cross examination of the plaintiff’s new causation witness.
Judge Djerassi found that Janssen’s “extraordinary” legal tactics during the initial trial contributed to the development that forced the plaintiff to change experts. The judge refused to condone and reward the tactics for which he previously reprimanded the defendant by granting its request for a new trial, Law360 reported.
At trial, Janssen asked the court to block a pediatric endocrinologist from testifying as the plaintiff’s causation expert since, the company alleged, the doctor failed to follow Alabama law for physicians not licensed in the state. The defendant, however, didn’t make the request until just before the doctor was to take the stand. Austin’s legal team was forced to introduce a new causation expert witness.
Judge Djerassi chastised Janssen’s legal team for the last-minute “tactical measure.” He has since refused multiple attempts by Janssen to use the development to overturn the jury award and evade accountability for the pain and suffering Austin experienced.
Beginning in 2002, when he was 7 years old, Austin was prescribed Risperdal to treat behavior disorders associated with autism and continued taking the drug for five years. Like thousands of other male plaintiffs who took the drug when they were children, Austin believes Risperdal caused him to develop gynecomastia, a physically and emotionally painful condition.
Huffington Post explains that some plaintiffs, including Austin, developed breasts as large as DD and that the breasts may even lactate because Risperdal generates the production of prolactin – a hormone produced by women during and just after childbirth to trigger lactation. Surgery, including liposuction and mastectomy, is often required to remove the breast tissue. Beasley Allen previously reported that more than 5,800 lawsuits are pending in the Philadelphia state court.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Risperdal in 1993 to treat adult schizophrenia, but it was not approved for pediatric use until 2006. As Beasley Allen previously reported, though, Janssen aggressively marketed the drug for a number of off-label uses in children and adolescents prior to the FDA’s 2006 approval. For example, a Janssen sales representative visited Austin’s doctor more than 20 times while the doctor was treating Austin. Such actions served as a basis for Janssen’s $2.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013 for deceptive marketing practices.
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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with gynecomastia as a result of taking Risperdal, contact James Lampkin, a lawyer in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at James.Lampkin@beasleyallen.com.