A federal judge in Missouri has remanded a Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit to St. Louis Circuit Court, after rejecting the defendants’ assertions that the multi-plaintiff case was fraudulently joined due to a lack of personal jurisdiction.
The Risperdal lawsuit names 72 plaintiffs, including a number who reside outside of Missouri. All are alleged to have experienced excessive male breast growth (gynecomastia) due to their use of the medication.
“Defendants argue that the non-Missouri citizen plaintiffs are fraudulently joined with the Missouri plaintiffs because the out-of-state plaintiffs cannot establish personal jurisdiction under Missouri law. Courts in this district have consistently held that an alleged lack of personal jurisdiction does not establish fraudulent joinder,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie White explained in his November 29th Order remanding the case to St. Louis. “The court follows the approach taken by the district courts in the Eastern District of Missouri, holds that Plaintiffs’ claims are not fraudulently joined, and finds that complete diversity is absent.”
Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic medication approved to treat adult and adolescent schizophrenia, bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 10-to-17, and irritability in children (5-to-16 years of age) with autistic disorder. It is also frequently prescribed off-label to treat children with ADHD.
In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle criminal and civil charges related to from the marketing of Risperdal and other drugs. Among other things, federal prosecutors had accused the companies of improperly marketing Risperdal for off-label pediatric indications and concealed side effects associated with its use.
Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit have been named defendants in more than 13,0000 Risperdal lawsuits, the majority of which were filed on behalf of men and boys who allegedly developed gynecomastia while using the drug. Plaintiffs accuse the companies of concealing data suggesting Risperdal stimulates the pituitary gland to produce excessive amounts of prolactin, a hormone tied to female breast development. Excess levels of prolactin can cause female-like breast growth in males.
Before October 2006, the Risperdal label described gynecomastia as a rare complication that appeared in less than 1 in 1,000 patients. That month, the label was updated to note that 2.3% of male adolescents treated with Risperdal had developed the condition.
One of the largest Risperdal litigations in the country is currently underway in Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where a series of gynecomastia cases have gone to trial since February 2015. Four of those trials have resulted in verdicts favoring plaintiffs, with damage awards ranging from $500,000 to $70 million.