Risperdal linked to enlargement of breast tissue in male adolescents
The Johnson & Johnson drug Risperdal is prescribed to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability in people with autism. Studies show that the drug can cause an increase in the production of prolactin, a hormone that causes breast tissue to enlarge. In males, an increase in the level of prolactin can cause gynecomastia, a condition associated with the enlargement of breast tissue.
The health risks of Risperdal have been well documented. The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology published a study in 2006 showing that prolactin levels can increase significantly when Risperdal was given to adolescent males. Furthermore, in 2009 the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology found that elevated prolactin levels remained for as long as two years after patients stopped taking Risperdal.
Gynecomastia often requires corrective surgery. In extreme cases, patients suffering from gynecomastia may require breast- reduction surgery or a complete mastectomy.
Johnson & Johnson also faced allegations that the company improperly marketed the drug for unapproved uses. In April of 2012, an Arkansas judge ordered the company to pay $1.2 billion in fines because of its Risperdal marketing. This decision came on the heels of rulings in Texas and South Carolina, where the company was ordered to pay fines of $158 million and $327 million, respectively. The drug had been a blockbuster for Johnson & Johnson, bringing in $3.4 billion in sales in 2008.