Eddie Bible was just a teenager when he began taking Risperdal in the early 2000s. A year-and-half-later, Mr. Bible had developed gynecomastia, a condition that caused him to develop female-like breasts.
“I had bigger boobs than the girls in (high) school,” he recently told CNN. “I thought, ‘Am I going to have to get a training bra?’ ”
Now 26, Mr. Bible is preparing to file a Risperdal lawsuit. Like thousands of other men and boys, he claims that the drug’s manufacturers failed to disclose its potential to cause excessive male breast growth.
“If I knew what the side effects would be of the medication, I would have never taken it.”
To Mr. Bible, the psychological consequences of Risperdal turned out to be far worse than the bipolar disorder the drug was intended to treat. Once his breasts became noticeable, he retreated from the world, mostly staying inside and playing video games. School was an ordeal.
“I’d go to the locker room, and people would point and stare,” he told CNN.
Risperdal was brought to market in the mid 1990s. However, gynecomastia warnings weren’t added to the drug’s label until 2006. During an interview that aired on CNN this month, an attorney representing Risperdal plaintiffs maintained that this delay was deliberate on the part of Johnson & Johnson, which allegedly sought to increase its profits by marketing the drug for use in children. When Mr. Bible was prescribed Risperdal, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had yet to clear the medication for any pediatric indications. In fact, the agency would not do so until 2006.
Drug companies are legally barred from marketing their products for unapproved uses. However, federal prosecutors have accused Johnson & Johnson of improperly promoting Risperdal for use in children prior to 2006. In November 2013, the company entered into one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in U.S. history, and agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve these claims, as well as criminal and civil charges involving the marketing of two other medications.
There are currently more than 13,000 Risperdal lawsuits pending in courts around the country, many of which were filed on behalf of men and boys who were allegedly left disfigured by the drug. More than 2,000 of these cases are included in a mass tort litigation underway in Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Court of Common Please, where several gynecomastia claims have already gone to trial. Just this past July, $70 million – the litigation’s largest verdict thus far– was awarded to a teenager who experienced the growth of female-like breasts shortly after he began taking Risperdal as a five-year-old. Three other trials have gone the way of plaintiffs, with damage awards ranging from $500,000 to $2.5 million.
A Pennsylvania jury did decline to award damages in one case. And earlier this month, the judge overseeing the state’s sixth gynecomastia trial abruptly dismissed that lawsuit.