Justice was done the Friday before Independence Day in a courtroom in Philadelphia. Janssen, on trial for failure to properly warn of side effects caused by one of its popular antipsychotic drugs, was given no cause to celebrate the long weekend when the jury awarded plaintiff $70M Risperdal verdict.
Justice was done the Friday before Independence Day in a courtroom in Philadelphia. Janssen, on trial for failure to properly warn of side effects caused by one of its popular antipsychotic drugs, was given no cause to celebrate the long weekend when the jury awarded plaintiff $70M Risperdal verdict. The plaintiff, Andrew Yount, began taking Risperdal when he was 5 years old as treatment for his mental illness. Note: It is not our policy to identify minor plaintiffs by name. In fact, he was referred to only as “A.Y.” in court papers. However, the plaintiff’s father identified him by his full name in an interview.
Mr. Yount, now 16, experienced a severe side effect from using Risperdal. He grew female-sized breasts. His lawyers stated during trial that Janssen knew that Risperdal could cause such a condition, known as gynecomastia, but manipulated the data to make the risk seem far less serious. Mr. Yount’s lawyers also argued that Janssen failed to give proper warnings to prescribers and patients. Of course, Janssen denied any wrongdoing of any kind.
While Johnson & Johnson, Janssen’s parent company, has been settling some of the many Philadelphia cases of Risperdal-related breast development, it’s also been on the losing end of some serious verdicts. The first such verdict, $2.5M, was awarded in February 2015 to Austin Pledger, who developed size 46 DD breasts after taking Risperdal. Another $1.75M gynecomastia verdict for the plaintiff came in November 2015.
Mr. Yount’s is the fifth damages award thus far and is the largest one to date. According to Steve Sheller, one of Mr. Yount’s lawyers, the jury found that the company failed to provide proper warnings to Mr. Yount and his parents regarding the risk of gynecomastia. Part of the verdict for Mr. Yount is for the emotional stress he endured as a result of developing female breasts.
At this point, let me say that I have nothing but compassion for young Mr. Yount and nothing but contempt for Janssen. Growing up is hard. Growing up with a mental illness is harder still. Kids can be quite cruel to those who are the least bit different. Now, add to the mix the fact that Mr. Yount grew female breasts. I’m a tough old bird, but the thought of what this young man must’ve endured is enough to make me almost cry.
The fact that J&J and Janssen think they did nothing wrong elicits an entirely different response, believe me. And I’m apparently not the only one who feels this way. Mr. Yount’s attorney, Mr. Sheller said, “The jury got angry at these people; they don’t take responsibility. This verdict sends a clear message to J&J to step up and take responsibility for the damage they’ve done to these young men and to set up a global settlement program so the families don’t have to continue to suffer through these trials.” Indeed.
Barring such a global settlement program, Janssen and J&J have about 1,500 more Risperdal cases to defend in the state court in Philadelphia. All I can say is “Open up that checkbook because you’re not winning.”
The company is, however, appealing Mr. Yount’s verdict and still denies that Risperdal is responsible for the plaintiff’s breast growth. According to company spokesperson Kristina Chang, “We believe this verdict is not justified by the evidence, and that the award is clearly excessive and far out of line with any factual assessment of actual damages.”
Really? I wonder how you’d feel, Ms. Chang, if it was your son. For that matter, how would you feel if your formative years had been so negatively impacted by a drug that, for the sake of argument, caused you to grow testicles? I’m sure gym class would’ve been a real treat for you.
It’s not as though Risperdal is a miracle drug with a clean history. Janssen said that millions have been helped by the drug, but at what cost?
The drug was originally given FDA approval for use in adults only and only for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, that wasn’t a big enough market share for Janssen. The company turned Risperdal into a $3B-a-year cash cow through aggressively marketing it for off-label uses, such as autism and behavioral problems in children and dementia in seniors.
In fact, Janssen had to open its checkbook for civil and criminal penalties to the tune of $2.2B in 2013 after a DOJ investigation found its marketing to seniors was improper. That’s putting it mildly, as the FDA had refused to approve Risperdal for treating seniors with dementia due to the link between the drug and strokes in senior patients. Two other drug marketing claims were settled with that $2.2B, making it one of the biggest health-fraud penalties in the U.S.
When Mr. Yount began Risperdal treatment, the FDA still hadn’t approved the drug for use in children. That approval wouldn’t come until 2006.
Mr. Yount’s father, Terry Yount said, “We are glad that Andrew’s suffering now stands for something. We hope this verdict gives hope to the thousands of other boys who were disfigured by Risperdal that they will get justice too.”
I sincerely hope that justice comes for the other young men injured by this drug and its irresponsible manufacturer.