Johnson & Johnson face lawsuits on mislabeled drug
In 1993 the drug Risperidone, also known as Risperdal, was approved for sale in the United States. Johnson & Johnson developed the drug to treat schizophrenia, irritability in autism patients, and for bipolar disorder. Since that time, the drug has been used to treat millions of Americans who experience these conditions. Risperdal has also been involved in several high-profile pharmaceutical injury lawsuits that have cost the company billions of dollars in damages.
The drug remains available over-the-counter, with a cost that averages between 100 and 200 dollars per month. A representative for Johnson & Johnson has spoken out in defense of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a J&J subsidiary and developer of the drug. Citing the millions of healthy users of the drug, the company says Risperdal is “essential to helping those affected by mental illness.”
This defense means little victims of the drug’s side effects, including one that only appeared on its labels after thirteen years of being on the market.
Pharmaceutical injury lawsuits claim J&J willfully deceived Risperdal users
In 2006, Johnson & Johnson put on the drug’s label that one of the major side effects was gynecomastia, breast growth in men. This condition has affected men of various ages, and persists after the drug is no longer used. Breast reduction surgery is often not covered by insurance plans, meaning that many victims would have to pay out of pocket to deal with the condition in this way.
Eddie Bible, a victim who began taking the drug at the age of 13, claims that his life was affected considerably by the side effects. As his breasts grew, he withdrew from social life whenever possible. While at school, he experienced ridicule and mistreatment that would haunt him years later. “Looking back on it, I feel like an experiment,” said Bible. He claims that had he known of the side-effect in question he would have never taken the drug to begin with.
Now at the age of 26, Bible has long since had his breasts reduced through surgery. He is far from alone in his troubles with Risperdal, and not every victim has been able to afford the surgery. Over 13,000 plaintiffs are expected to file a pharmaceutical injury lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.
Jason Itkin, the lawyer representing the victims, claims that this lawsuit is not only about getting compensation to the victims. He sees it as a way for J&J to find its way back into good graces with the public it has deceived. “I mean, this is a company that’s supposed to help people and instead has gone out of their way to hurt kids,” said Itkin.
Risperdal and J&J share a troubled history
Johnson & Johnson has been in court over Risperdal and other drugs multiple times over the past four years. In April of 2012, Arkansas Judge Timothy Davis Fox set a fine of $1.2 billion on J&J and Janssen Pharmaceuticals for allegedly downplaying the risks of Risperdal use. The decision would later be overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, but this would be only one of many cases. In August of the same year, J&J paid 36 states over $136 million to settle pharmaceutical injury claims that it had promoted Risperdal, and other drugs, for off-label uses including the treatment of dementia.
In November of the following year, J&J would be hit by a $2.2 billion fine for having once again marketed Risperdal for use in treating dementia. It is alleged that both Janssen Pharmaceuticals and J&J offered kickbacks to healthcare professionals who promoted use of the drug.
To date, the drug has not been cleared for use in treating dementia by the Food and Drug Administration.
Risperdal and Johnson & Johnson would find themselves in court multiple times from2013 to 2016. Roughly 1500 cases have been filed in Pennsylvania as of 2016, and more are expected to surface. There have also been substantial pharmaceutical injury settlements and penalties paid to victims during this time.
Feburary 2015 saw an Alabama man be awarded $2.5 million in damages, and another victim receiving $1.75 million.
In 2016, a Pennsylvania jury assessed a $70 million penalty to J&J over its mislabeling of Risperdal prior to 2006. Spokesmen for the company claim they will protest the verdict, calling it grossly out of line with all previous individual pharmaceutical injury settlements and awards.
Victims suffer as J&J promotes Risperdal use
Representatives at Johnson & Johnson insist that the drug remains an essential product for its intended users, citing millions who have used the drug without serious side effects. They are not the first corporation to be embroiled in pharmaceutical injury lawsuits, and they will not be the last.
Side effects are a part of medicine. Ideally this is a risk that is minimized as much as possible, and J&J clearly feel that they have done so for Risperdal. However, victims like Eddie Bible still bear the scars of their breast reduction surgeries. Many former Risperdal users continue to suffer social side-effects well after they stopped using the drug.
Arturo Carino is another pharmaceutical injury victim of Risperdal’s unlabeled side effect. He was driven out of high school after an incident of abuse by other students. At age 23, he has not graduated high school, nor can he afford corrective surgery.
“Children grab you to try to figure out what you are,” said Carino. “If I have this for the rest of my life, I’m probably not going to have a significant other.”