Johnson & Johnson and its unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a Mississippi family that claimed the companies’ antipsychotic drug Risperdal caused their son to develop breasts, a disfiguring condition known as gynecomastia, according to Law360. The announcement came just days before the case was slated to go to trial in Pennsylvania state court.
The settlement follows a Superior Court ruling in January during which a global order barring punitive damages on gynecomastia claims with Risperdal in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas was upended. Suddenly faced with the potential of punitive damages, Johnson & Johnson decided to settle.
The lawsuit involved the case of a boy identified as J.T. who developed “large, female-like breasts” after taking Risperdal beginning at age 7 to treat bipolar disorder, which was later described as a conduct disorder. Risperdal can increase levels of prolactin in the body, a hormone that triggers lactation in pregnant women. In adolescent boys, it can lead to breast growth. Risperdal also allegedly caused the boy to gain a large amount of weight. As a result, he was ridiculed by classmates at school.
J.T. was diagnosed with gynecomastia in 2013 – after taking the drug for nearly a decade. According to his lawsuit, Risperdal’s warning labels in 2006 – two years after he started taking the drug – said that gynecomastia was a rare side effect occurring in fewer than 1 in 1,000 patients. But J.T.’s attorneys argued that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen had studies that proved the side effect was much more prevalent in adolescents but withheld this information from doctors and patients.
J.T.’s case is one of about 6,700 pending in Philadelphia as part of a mass tort program. Several Risperdal lawsuits have been tried resulting in about $75 million in damages.