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Dangerous Drug Side Effects - $2.5 Million Risperdal Verdict against Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson was slapped with two multimillion-dollar verdicts in February 2015, including one awarded to a family of a young man who claimed he grew breasts while on Risperdal. A Philadelphia jury awarded $2.5 million after it found that Johnson and Johnson was liable for severe side effects suffered by plaintiff Austin Pledger and his family.

The jury concluded that J&J failed to warn that the medication could cause gynecomastia, a condition where young men and boys develop breasts. Pledger, now age 20, began taking the drug when he was eight years old to treat symptoms of autism. He developed size 46 DD breasts when he became a teenager.

Risperdal is a powerful antipsychotic that was originally approved in the early 1990s for schizophrenia in adults. The drug was not approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in children until 2006. The lawsuit’s allegations against Johnson and Johnson contended that the company encouraged off-label prescriptions for children.

“If there was ever a clear failure-to-warn case, this was it,” plaintiff’s counsel Thomas Kline told the Philadelphia Inquirer after the verdict. Kline said that evidence presented at trial about the drug’s dangers was never presented to the FDA.

The pharmaceutical giant’s legal troubles are probably not over yet. Pledger’s case was the first of its kind to go to trial, but there are more than a thousand other Risperdal lawsuits across the country. The Pledger verdict could serve as a bellwether, possibly spelling more financial losses for J&J. A spokeswoman for the Johnson and Johnson told the Inquirer that the company will appeal. “We firmly believe this verdict should be overturned,” she said.