The fate of thousands of Risperdal lawsuits is now in the hands of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear an appeal on whether some cases should be time barred.
According to The Legal Intelligencer, all of the lawsuits are part of a mass tort program now underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and were filed on behalf of men and boys who experienced gynecomastia (excess breast development) allegedly related to their use of Risperdal.
In 2015, the trial court granted Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutical’s Motion for Summary Judgment in two cases – Saksek v. Janssen and Winter v. Janssen – after the companies argued that plaintiffs had failed to file their claims within the two-year statute of limitations.
In affirming that decision last year, the Pennsylvania Superior Court agreed with the trial court’s finding that plaintiffs should have filed their cases by June 30, 2009.
Both the trial judge and the Superior Court pointed to the availability of medical journal articles, print media, and television broadcasts in asserting that plaintiffs should have reasonably known by that date of the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia.
Plaintiffs contend, however, that the finding failed to take into consideration each plaintiff’s individual circumstances, such as where they lived, what media they had access to and consumed, and what they actually knew about their alleged injuries.
If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court fails to reverse summary judgment in these two cases, roughly 40% of the 6,700 Risperdal lawsuits currently pending in Philadelphia could be subject to dismissal on similar grounds.
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.
Risperdal has been on the market since the 1990s. However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration did not approve the medication for use in children until October 2006. That same month, the drug’s label was updated to indicate that gynecomastia had occurred in 2.3% of male adolescents prescribed Risperdal. Previously, the prescribing information characterized the condition as a rare side effect that occurred among just 1 in 1,000 patients.
The Philadelphia mass tort program has completed a total of several Risperdal gynecomastia trials since February 2015, with juries awarding 6 plaintiffs judgments ranging from $2.5 million to $70 million.