Risperdal is an anti-psychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia, and is also used in the treatment of bi-polar disorder and certain disorders in patients on the autism spectrum. It is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, and received FDA approval in 1993. Risperdal – like Invega, another anti-psychotic – are often used in off-label treatments for ADHD, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Both drugs may be used individually, or in tandem with another drug such as lithium.
What problems are associated with these drugs?
Both Risperdal and Invega have been linked to gynecomastia in young men. Gynecomastia is a condition where the tissues inside the breasts swell. The condition can be painful, and some male patients may begin to lactate. There are medications available to treat the condition, though in more severe cases surgery is required.
The problem is compounded by the demographic that Risperdal serves (off-label uses aside). Because Risperdal and Invega are used to treat young men with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, the patients’ responses to the side effect could lead to dangerous behaviors. Gynecomastia can be embarrassing enough on its own, making young boys feel self-conscious and anxious. Add this burden to the shoulders of a young man who already feels self-conscious and anxious, and the results can be psychologically and emotionally devastating.
Gynecomastia is the least troublesome of the side effects, however. Risperdal has also been linked to:
- Cardiac arrest
- Type 2 diabetes
- Uncontrollable and sometimes pain muscle movement disorders
- Dystonia, a condition causing patients to make uncontrollable sounds
Invega has been linked to rapid heart rates, though no link has been made to cardiac arrest.
Why Johnson & Johnson is responsible
Johnson & Johnson has been accused of marketing Risperdal off-label uses, despite those uses not being approved in younger patients. In a lawsuit against them, the government claims that Johnson & Johnson bribed doctors into prescribing the drugs for patients with ADHD. Lawsuits have also been filed claiming that the full extent of the side effects were never revealed.