Joelle Kendle is struggling with whether to fill the prescription her doctor has given her for Risperdal for her 6-year-old son, Matthias. He is already taking the stimulant Adderall for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it barely controls his outbursts.
Joelle is concerned about Risperdal side effects, and rightfully so. The drug has been associated with weight gain and diabetes. More recent studies have linked the drug to gynecomastia, a condition in which boys grow breasts.
Risperdal, known generically as risperidone, is an antipsychotic medication that is approved in the United States to treat adults and children with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability with autism. It is often prescribed off-label to treat other behavioral conditions such as ADHD and ADD.
Gynecomastia can be emotionally scarring for boys, and it can also be physically painful. Breasts can become tender and in some cases lactate. It can put boys at increased risk of developing breast cancer and may hinder their reproductive development. For many, the condition goes away after several months or years, but some boys have to undergo surgeries such as liposuction or mastectomy to remove breast tissue.
Lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals alleging the companies knew the gynecomastia risks associated with Risperdal but failed to adequately warn the public on the drug’s safety label.
It’s these unrevealed adverse effects that worry Joelle, especially when pairing Risperdal with her son’s current ADHD medication. When she asked the doctor for reassurance about the drug, he said, “We’re really feeling around in the dark with this stuff.”
Even the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry guidelines offer little support, saying: “Much is still not known about the efficacy, tolerability, and long-term safety of these drugs in young people.”
Source: NY Times