The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is now home to more than 5,500 Risperdal lawsuits, thanks to a spike in filings during the first three months of the year. Much of the increase may be due to Johnson & Johnson’s decision to end a tolling agreement that paused the statute of limitations governing claims.
“There was no expiration date on the tolling agreement,” one Risperdal attorney told Forbes.com. “But either side had the right to cancel the agreement.”
The first quarter of 2017 saw more than 3,000 new filings in Philadelphia, were lawsuits involving purported Risperdal side effects have been centralized in a mass tort program. The majority of cases involve men and boys who allegedly developed gynecomastia (excessive male breast development) as a result of treatment with the atypical antipsychotic. Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary failed to provide doctors and patients with adequate warnings regarding this potential complication.
The Pennsylvania mass tort program has convened several gynecomastia trials since early 2015. Four of those cases have resulted in verdicts favoring Risperdal plaintiffs, with damage awards ranging from $500,000 to $70 million. Jurors declined to award the plaintiff damages in one case, while summary judgment was granted to the defense in two others before trials could get underway. An eighth case was dismissed just 11 days into trial, after the judge overseeing the case ruled that the plaintiff’s expert testimony was inadequate.
A seventh Philadelphia jury was convened earlier this month for the state’s most recent Risperdal trial. Undisclosed settlements have also been reached in several gynecomastia cases just before trials were set to start.
Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic indicated to treat certain psychiatric conditions in adults and children. However, it was not approved for any pediatric indications until 2006. That same year, the Risperdal label was updated to note that 2.3% of male adolescents treated with the drug had experienced gynecomastia. Previously, the label characterized the condition as a rare side effect that appeared in less than 1 in 1,000 patients.
In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen had agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve allegations that they had improperly promoted several prescription medications. Under the terms of the settlement, the companies pled guilty to illegally marketing Risperdal for off-label use in elderly dementia patients. However, they did not admit wrongdoing in resolving charges that the drug had been improperly promoted for unapproved use in children.