Risperdal (risperidone) is used to treat certain mental and mood disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autistic disorder. When effective, the drug promotes clear thinking and makes it easier to participate in everyday life.
Users of Risperdal are at risk for a wide variety of complications, ranging from mild to severe. Common side effects include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Weight gain
Less common but more severe side effects include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tremor or muscle spasms
- Signs of an infection, including a persistent sore throat or fever
- Interruptions in breathing while asleep
It’s also possible Risperdal can elevate blood sugar levels and anyone with diabetes must be very cautious when using the drug. There is also evidence Risperdal causes a rise in triglyceride levels, which can increase a person’s risk for heart disease.
Some users have developed a permanent condition called tardive dyskinesia after using Risperdal. Others have developed a condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which is linked to a variety of symptoms, including fever, muscle stiffness, pain, and weakness, severe tiredness, confusion, sweating, irregular heartbeat, dark urine, or other signs of kidney problems.
Risperdal and Prolactin
One of the most serious concerns related to Risperdal is the drug’s ability to increase prolactin in a user’s body. Prolactin is a natural substance that causes females to produce unwanted breast milk and effects their menstrual cycle. In men, prolactin affects the sex drive and production of sperm, and can cause a condition known as gynecomastia, which causes males to develop enlarged breasts.
Symptoms associated with gynecomastia include:
- Pain and tenderness in the breast area
- Swelling and enlargement of the nipples
- Breast growth
- Nipple discharge
In addition to the physical symptoms of gynecomastia, males with the condition suffer a great deal of mental and emotional trauma as a result.
The incidence of male users developing enlarged breasts after Risperdal use is so severe that many have taken legal action against the drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
The first report of males developing Risperdal-related gynecomastia was reported in the Florida foster care system around 1999. Several year later in 2006, a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology revealed evidence of prolactin increases in adolescent users of Risperdal.
Follow up studies have further confirmed the link between prolactin increases and Risperdal use, and have shown that levels remain high for years, even after use of the drug ceases.
Criminal and civil fines have been levied against Johnson & Johnson for improper marketing of Risperdal. Though it’s legal for doctors to prescribe medications for off label uses, drug companies cannot market the drug for those purposes.
Additionally, Johnson & Johnson faces hundreds of lawsuits from male Risperdal users who developed enlarged breasts. In October 2017, a Troy, New York man was awarded $1 million after a federal jury found his use of Risperdal resulted in gynecomastia.
The company is accused of downplaying the risks of Risperdal and not warning users of the potential to raise prolactin and the complications linked to increased prolactin levels. Hundreds of families have filed lawsuits against the company after they were forced to undergo surgery and deal with the emotional trauma of gynecomastia.
If you or your child used Risperdal and developed gynecomastia or other complications, you could be eligible for compensation. Every case is unique. Speak to a legal expert for more information.