A recent study suggests that autistic children who take certain atypical antipsychotics, including Risperdal, are more vulnerable to weight gain.
Risperdal is one of a number of second –generation antipsychotic drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to relieve irritability in autistic children. However, these drugs are controversial, due in part to their often serious side effects, which may include changes in glucose and lipid metabolism, weight gain, poor cardiovascular outcome, and in the case of Risperdal, gynecomastia.
The authors of this new study, which appeared in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, sought to determine which atypical antipsychotic drugs were more detrimental. To do so, they conducted a chart review of 200 patients on the autism spectrum, ages 2 through 20, who had had been treated with one of five atypical antipsychotic medications, including Risperdal, for a maximum of four years.
Patients treated with Risperdal, Abilify and Zyprexa saw the greatest increases in body mass index, while those who were prescribed Seroquel and Geodon saw no increase.
The authors of the study did acknowledge that as a chart review, its findings were limited.
“We believe, however, that this study adds to the growing safety data regarding use of SGAs and lays the ground work for future controlled head-to-head analysis of SGA treatment in ASD patients,” the reports lead author said in a statement announcing the results
In recent years, thousands of people who allegedly suffered serious Risperdal side effects have taken Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals division to court in order to obtain compensation for their pain and suffering. They accuse the companies of concealing the risks associated with Risperdal, and of failing to provide important safety warnings to patients and doctors. They also claim that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen have used questionable tactics to market the medication, including illegally promoting its use for unapproved indications.
The litigation involving Risperdal is currently focused on men and boys who purportedly developed gynecomastia (the growth of female-like breasts) while using the medication. Over the past year, a mass tort litigation underway in Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Court of Common Plea has convened five trials involving Risperdal and male breast growth, four of which have ended with significant compensatory damage awards for plaintiffs. The largest verdict was handed down earlier this summer, when a teen-aged boy was awarded $70 million in compensatory damages.
No damages were awarded in a fifth case, as the jury was unable to conclude that Risperdal was responsible for the plaintiffs’ breast development. However, as was the case in the other four trials, the jury did find that Janssen’s warnings in regards to gynecomastia were inadequate.