On October 8, 2019, a Philadelphia jury awarded a man $8 billion in punitive damages. This after he and his lawyers alleged that his childhood use of Risperdal caused Gynecomastia. Risperdal is an antipsychotic medication prescribed for a variety of other purposes. Although gynecomastia often occurs naturally in adolescent males and due to a number of factors in adult men, a recent verdict shows that it may also occur to patients who unwittingly take certain medications without being properly warned about the risks first.
About the Verdict
In his lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Risperdal, Maryland-based Nicholas Murray and his attorneys alleged that his use of Risperdal caused Gynecomastia.
Nicholas Murray used the drug between 2003 and 2008 and claims this usage was directly responsible for his development of gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is a condition in which men develop female-like breasts. The lawsuit claims that the makers of the drug downplayed the risks of the medication with regards to the breast-enlarging condition as a side effect. In addition, J&J even marketed and allowed it to be prescribed to adolescents before it was approved for such use.
Murray is One of Thousands Suing J&J
While the verdict on behalf of Murray has made a big splash, he is just one of more than 13,000 people who have filed lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson after developing symptoms of the condition, including puffy nipples, enlarged breasts, or “man boobs,” and large areolas.
Murray’s award is the largest to date among the thousands of lawsuits that have been filed. In 2015, a Philadelphia jury awarded Murray $1.75 million in damages. Subsequently, the judge reduced the amount to $680,000 and proceeded to bar the jury from awarding punitive damages for the time being. Later, an appeals court overturned that decision, which paved the way for the punitive damages phase that started in September.
What is Gynecomastia?
The condition in question involves the enlargement or swelling of breast tissue in males.
In most cases, it occurs when estrogen levels are too high or are too out of balance with testosterone levels. The condition can affect either of the breasts, and it can occur naturally at various times in a man’s life. For example, more than 50 percent of males are born with enlarged breasts due to the effects of estrogen from their mother; symptoms typically subside within two to three weeks. During puberty young men may develop gynecomastia that typically goes away within six months to two years. Finally, in mid-life and beyond men may develop the condition for a number of reasons.
What Other Things Cause It?
Certain conditions can lead to its development, including lack of proper nutrition; obesity; liver disease; a tumor in the testicles or adrenal gland; kidney failure; hypoandrogenism; and hyperthyroidism.
Certain drugs cause this breast-swelling condition as a side effect. That issue is at the center of the lawsuits that have been brought against Johnson and Johnson. Medications that increase the risk of the condition include anabolic steroids; calcium channel blockers; AIDS medications; estrogens; and many others.
Symptoms and Complications
The primary symptom of this condition is enlargement breast tissue in one or both breasts.
As a result, breasts may also be painful and tender to the touch. Sometimes, a firm, rubbery disk of tissue may be felt directly under the area of the nipple because of the condition.
Complications from this condition are rare. When they do occur, they are usually psychological in nature and can therefore be very damaging for a man’s self-esteem.
Nicholas Murray’s Story
Nicholas Murray, who was awarded the $8-billion settlement, has been contending with the issues caused because of use of the medication for most of his life.
He received his precription for Risperdal in 2002, when he was 9 years old. Nicholas Murray claims that Risperdal caused Gynecomastia for him. Risperdal was a top seller because the company allowed its use for the treatment of sleeping problems associated with autism. This is why Murray took the drug as a child.
Unfortunately, Murray continued to use the drug through the year 2008, despite the realization he was growing breasts. It took the FDA four years to approve the drug for use with children, at the time of prescription. Nonetheless, Murray’s doctors and psychologists recommended it for him. The 2002 label for the medication stated that risks of the breast enlargement condition were 1 in 1,000. According to the lawsuit, in 2006 a different label stated that there was a higher and that the medication caused the condition in approximately 2.3 percent of patients.
For its part, the pharmaceutical company plans to appeal the $8-billion verdict.
It has stated that the award is “grossly disproportionate” to the initial $680-million award and that the court excluded crucial evidence proving that prescription labels for the drug did, in fact, properly highlight the risks.
This verdict is just the latest in a string of court battles for the pharmaceutical company.
Do You Suffer from Gynecomastia?
If you are a man who has developed man boobs and was prescribed Risperdal at some point, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
Remember that lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson allege that Risperdal caused Gynecomastia. In the meantime, coping with the condition and the resulting psychological and emotional tolls that it takes can be very difficult. Good news is that there are many products available that help boost confidence. For example, the right compression clothes, nipple covers, and other garments can help hide the physical symptoms of gynecomastia. Stay tuned for more developments in the lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies.