Johnson & Johnson (J&J) seems to be fighting an uphill legal battle over its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal. Four lawsuit verdicts may bode well for victims as allegations of misleading and negligent marketing for adolescents using the drug use are successfully being used against the company in court. As more information comes to light, settlement amounts will likely rise for future lawsuits.
Risperdal Marketing Allegations
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the J&J subsidiary which manufactures Risperdal, is now facing a number of allegations surrounding marketing practices. One allegation surrounds the use of Risperdal for “off-label” prescriptions. “Off-label” refers to companies who sell and doctors prescribing a medication to treat conditions that aren’t specified on the FDA-approved drug label. While legal as a practice, the off-label usage does carry liability risk should something go wrong.
In the case of Risperdal lawsuits, complications occurred when the drug was used to treat adolescent autism, ADD/ADHD, and related psychological disorders. Studies found that young and teenage boys who were prescribed Risperdal developed gynecomastia, a condition that causes female breast tissue development.
Before it received approval, Janssen allegedly pushed the sales of Risperdal for adolescent prescription using questionable tactics including offering kickbacks.
When Janssen applied and received approval from the FDA for adolescent prescription in 2006, it may have concealed side effect information. The information included evidence that Risperdal increases prolactin levels, which may cause adolescent patients to develop gynecomastia. Consequently, the FDA approved Risperdal’s adolescent prescription in 2006 without knowing that Janssen withheld important data concerning the serious side effect.
Risperdal Lawsuit Verdicts
More than 1,700 lawsuits have been filed against J&J and Risperdal. Most cases are ongoing and have been consolidated into a mass tort based in a Philadelphia district court. Four cases thus far have ruled against J&J.
While one case awarded no damages, the other three case awards included:
- $2.5 million to Austin Pledger in February 2015
- $1.75 million to Nicholas Murray in November 2015
- $500,000 to Timothy Stange in December 2015
While a fourth victim, William Cirba, didn’t receive any damage awards in his March 2015 lawsuit, the jury found J&J guilty of neglecting to warn patients and doctors of the risk.
All four of the plaintiffs were prescribed Risperdal off-label prior to Risperdal’s 2006 adolescent prescription approval. The young men developed female breasts and claimed to suffer psychological and social distress in response.
Legal Nuances to Risperdal Cases
Normally, a jury can charge the defendant for punitive damages—fines that are meant to punish misconduct. These can be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. However in an earlier Risperdal case, the judge set a precedent which may bar future lawsuits from claiming punitive damages against J&J.
Another complication for victims to be aware of is the statute of limitations. Most Risperdal gynecomastia cases involve plaintiffs who were prescribed the drug more than 10 years ago and many are just now learning of the link between their condition and Risperdal. This often makes it difficult for cases to be filed in time based on the statute of limitations in a particular state. Each state has its own statute of limitations—a rule that enforces a time limit between the original injuring incident and the point at which a defendant is no longer legally liable for the injury.
Getting legal help
If you or someone you know may have developed gynecomastia or a similar condition after being prescribed Risperdal, don’t hesitate to consult an experienced attorney. Protect your rights and maximize your recovery through a personal injury attorney.