Parents of children with autism should be cautious if their doctors prescribe their child the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, also known as risperidone, because of potentially dangerous side effects including boys and young men developing female breasts, Lisa Ackerman, founder of TACA (Talk About Curing Autism), told host Shannon Penrod on the interactive web show Autism Live.
TACA is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating, empowering and supporting families affected by autism. Between January and October 2013, the organization received more than 22,000 requests for information. Many of those reports involved questions about antipsychotic drugs often prescribed for autism, such as Risperdal, Ackerman said.
“I have families that have been offered (Risperdal) but haven’t looked at side effects,” she said, such as gynecomastia, a Risperdal side effect in young boys and men where they develop breasts. “And in some cases, these breasts lactate,” she added.
Risperdal is approved to treat adults and children 5 years and older with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability with autism. It is sometimes prescribed off label to treat other behavior conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Risperidal has been associated with adverse events such as type 2 diabetes, a movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia, and the life threatening neurological disorder neuroleptic malignant syndrome. More recently, it has been blamed on a growing number of cases of gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia is embarrassing and uncomfortable for boys, causing side effects such breast tenderness and nipple discharge. It also puts boys at an increased risk for breast cancer and reproductive problems. Treatment involves medications such as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, or surgeries such as liposuction and mastectomies.
Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals currently face lawsuits from boys who claim the companies withheld information about the gynecomastia risk while taking Risperdal.
Autism Live is a production of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), and provides support, resources, information, facts, entertainment and inspiration to parents, teachers and practitioners working with children on the Autism Spectrum.