Johnson & Johnson Knew Their ADHD Drug Might Give Boys Breasts, But Didn’t Tell Anyone

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Risperdal was Johnson and Johnson’s big money, antipsychotic pill. For more than 10 years, it was their best-selling product, one which they’ve protected in the court of law more than 1,300 times.

The latest lawsuit over the drug came less than a month ago, from men who had developed breasts up to a size 46DD without warning. Though the pharmaceutical company has been settling out of court, the matter at hand is that Risperdal came without a warning telling patients that they could develop breasts after taking the drug.

Risperdal is used to treat schizophrenia, and has been used as an off-label treatment for ADD and ADHD. Given this latest scandal, it’s particularly troubling that it’s used as an ADHD medication, as boys are almost twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. This means that more boys are more likely to take Risperdal, and develop female breasts. In New York state, 7.7% of children are currently diagnosed with ADHD, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, although anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illness in the United States, ADHD is quite common amongst children, making this scandal all the more worrisome.

What makes the situation so particularly chilling is that JandJ knew of the side effect for years, and the only action the company took was to sell more of it.

Ivo Caers, a vice president of JandJ subsidiary Janseen Research and Development who worked on Risperdal for 18 years, testified in court that the Food and Drug Adminstration had never been given information on a years-old internal study that showed direct links between breast growth in boys and Ripserdal.

Former FDA commissioner David Kessler also took the stand this year to testify that JandJ had pushed doctors to prescribe the drug “off-label” — in other words, to use Risperdal for uses it hadn’t been formally test for or approved.

Now, there are about 1,200 pending Risperdal cases filed in Philadelphia alone over the issue.

How could JandJ hide such a consequential detail? Because of the money, of course. Risperdal accounted for 97% of JandJ’s sales — $28.9 billion — from 1994 to 2010. Although it wasn’t issued for use in minors until as late as 2006, JandJ did not put a warning label noting the possibility of gynemecostia, or breast development, until after minors began taking it.

In their defense, attorneys for JandJ have claimed that the so-called “man-boobs” were the result of obesity and puberty.

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