Our team of Risperdal attorneys recently reported on the Risperdal injury case ongoing in Alabama court. We are happy to announce that the jury just awarded the victim and his family with $2.5 million in damages.
This case was brought by an autistic man, Austin Pledger, who was prescribed Risperdal when he was seven years old. At the time, in the early 2000s, Risperdal was approved only for use in adults. Throughout his five years taking the drug, Pledger developed large breasts from a hormonal imbalance caused by Risperdal.
His trial against Risperdal's manufacturer Johnson & Johnson lasted one month, during which the jury saw definitive proof that J&J hid evidence that Risperdal was linked to breast tissue growth in adolescent boys. This is a serious medical condition known as gynecomastia. Of the 12 jurors assigned to the case, only one disagreed with the verdict.
Pledger was prescribed Risperdal to help the behavioral issues caused by his autism. His physician was visited several times by J&J representatives, who gave out samples of the drug and downplayed the risk of gynecomastia in children. Because of this marketing specifically to pediatric doctors, about 20% of Risperdal's sales in the early 2000s were for children even though it was not approved for adolescent use.
The former FDA commissioner David Kessler testified in this case, stating that he believed J&J knowingly manipulated scientific data to undermine the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia. This unconscionable behavior was confirmed in 2013, when J&J admitted to criminal misconduct and agreed to a $2.2 billion fine. It remains one of the largest health care fraud cases in United States history.
This 2013 case involved federal fraud and allegations that J&J paid doctors to illegally promote three drugs, one of which is Risperdal, for off-label uses. In addition to prescribing children this powerful, dangerous drug, J&J also encouraged doctors to prescribe it to elderly patients with dementia.
Antipsychotic drugs like Risperdal are extraordinarily dangerous in dementia patients. There is an array of scientific evidence proving that these types of drugs can cause strokes and premature death in dementia patients. The FDA explicitly refused to approve Risperdal for dementia treatment for this very reason.
Between children and the elderly, J&J knowing put some of the most vulnerable members of society at risk and showed blatant disregard for doing so. Aside from these federal lawsuits, there are thousands of others pending nationwide regarding gynecomastia. This $2.5 million verdict is actually the first gynecomastia case to go to trial.
Prescribing powerful medications to people with behavioral problems - whether they are elderly people with dementia or autistic children - is a serious problem known as chemical restraint. In fact, in 2000, when J&J met with the FDA to discuss Risperdal, an FDA official explicitly expressed his concern that Risperdal would be used "as a chemical straitjacket."