In the wake of a $70 million jury verdict, Janssen Pharmaceuticals settles Risperdal lawsuit over gynecomastia.
By Laurence Banville
Two recent settlements have raised new questions about the litigation surrounding Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication that has been linked to gynecomastia.
Risperdal Settlements Announced In PhiladelphiaIn late-2016, word broke that Johnson & Johnson-subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals had reached an undisclosed settlement with one young man, named only as N.F. in court documents, who said the company's drug Risperdal led to the development of gynecomastia. Even more recently, a second settlement announcement has many legal observers wondering how long Johnson & Johnson will continue to defend its medication in court.
Thousands of young men have blamed Risperdal, which is frequently used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the irritability caused by autism spectrum disorders, for causing abnormal breast tissue growth. More than 2,000 Risperdal lawsuits are currently pending in a Pennsylvania State Court, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. While these cases have been coordinated to conserve judicial resources, each lawsuit is being tried individually.
Trials Over Antipsychotic Drug Find Mixed ResultsSo far, the results at trial have been mixed. In July of 2016, a Philadelphia jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $70 million in compensation to a 16-year-old who developed gynecomastia after taking Risperdal for 11 years. Another jury, however, entering its verdict in March 2015, found that, while Johnson & Johnson had failed to warn the public of Risperdal's potential side effects, the drug had not caused the gynecomastia suffered by the plaintiff in question.
J&J Avoids Trial, Settles Risperdal CasesThe first settlement, reported by Law360, was announced only four days before the case initiated by N.F. was scheduled to go to trial. Johnson & Johnson went public with the settlement decision on November 2, 2016.
Jason Itkin, one of the attorneys representing N.F., told reporters that "the family is obviously very happy with the result and so are we." But any impression that Johnson & Johnson is preparing to settle Risperdal cases en masse would be a mistake, Itkin said. "It was a one-off settlement. That's all this is. We don't have any indication from [Johnson & Johnson] that they're ready to look at globally resolving the litigation."
Johnson & Johnson's more recent actions have cast doubt on Itkin's position. Just three days before another Risperdal case was set for trial, Johnson & Johnson again announced that it had reached a confidential settlement with the plaintiff, a boy from New York who claimed to have grown excessive breasts after using the drug for almost ten years. Janssen, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, notified reporters of the settlement on January 9, 2017. The company maintains that any recent settlements are isolated decisions, not signs that the company's willingness to defend Risperdal is beginning to flag.