For many years, Johnson & Johnson has been one of the most respected companies in the health and medical communities. The company created the first commercial first aid kits and went on to become one of the most popular names in medicine, due in part to the popularity of its Band-Aid brand bandages. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Johnson & Johnson began to focus on pharmaceuticals and research, expanding into vision care, mechanical wound closure, diabetes management, and surgical markets. The company also began acquiring other companies throughout the world, one of which is their current affiliate, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Despite the respect the Johnson and Johnson and Janssen have received throughout their history, there have also been accusations of negligence, fraud, and illegal marketing. A company so large is bound to occasionally make mistakes, but some believe Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen intentionally marketed drugs illegally to boost sales.
Risperdal and Its Unexpected Side Effects
Unfortunately, like all medications, Johnson & Johnson’s schizophrenia drug Risperdal can trigger side effects, some of which are severe and/or permanent. For some patients, the risk for these side effects is outweighed by the benefits – after all they are searching for a treatment for schizophrenia, a serious disease that interferes with a person’s quality of life. For others, though, the use of Risperdal altered the course of their lives negatively, and had they known the potential for side effects, they would have opted for another treatment.
According to many young male Risperdal users, all alleging the drug caused them to develop breast tissue (a condition known as gynecomastia), Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals failed to make this risk clear to them or their doctors.
Many of these patients have taken legal action, and at the moment there are thousands of claims involving Risperdal and gynecomastia against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen across the country. Several claims have already been settled by the company, including charges filed by the Department of Justice involving illegal marketing practices. The company’s total expenditures for settlements is nearly $3 billion.
Illegal Marketing Claims and Risperdal
In one case, an Alabama man who developed size 46DD breasts after years of using Risperdal for treating autism, was given a multi-million award by a jury that found Johnson & Johnson and Janssen kept the side effect a secret, and illegally marketed the drug as safe for children. The US Food and Drug Administration had previously prohibited the company from targeting younger audiences.
According to evidence from the case, more than half of Risperdal’s sales came from prescriptions given to children. The drug had also been prescribed to elderly patients, which were also not included in the FDA’s approved populations for Risperdal use. The prosecution presented emails, business plans, and sales training manuals during the trial showed the company had organized sales units targeting pediatricians, as well as state mental institutions treating children.
Johnson & Johnson and Janssen continue to maintain their innocence, and even included salespeople in the defense testifying no laws were intentionally broken. These employees claimed even though doctors were given child-sized doses, salespeople did not realize the doctor treated children. Executives within the company claim laws governing their actions are vague and they believe they the laws are designed to target drug companies.
Every day, patients are given choices about their medical care and the medical care of their loved ones. Their decisions are based on safety information provided by drug manufacturers and the advice of their doctors. Sadly, when the safety information is misleading or their doctors are not properly informed, as was the case with Risperdal, their choices lead to a lifetime of misery and regret.
Our goal is to help those affected by defective drugs like Risperdal. We want people to understand that their choice to take the drug might have been based on false or misleading information, and any side effects that occurred as a result of their use of the drug is not their fault. Managing one’s own medical care and the medical care of their loves ones is a big responsibility and without factual information it’s impossible to make wise decisions. If you or a loved one suffered the effects of gynecomastia as a result of using Risperdal, you have a right to take legal action.