It’s Surprising–Some Moobs Are Worth Millions, Some Aren’t
As the 1200+ individual Risperdal trials slog their way through the U.S. justice system, the verdicts may eventually not be so newsworthy. But to those of us interested in the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia, these first few jury decisions are fascinating.
If you have been following the story, you’ll recall that the anti-psychotic drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, paid $2.2 billion in criminal fines, government settlements and awards to whistleblowers in 2013. The company agreed to the whopping sum when the U.S. Department of Justice uncovered strong evidence that it aggressively marketed Risperdal for off-label use and failed to warn the medical community about potential side effects including gynecomastia.
(If you want to catch up on the saga, read our post about the settlement here.)
This development opened the door for individual lawsuits. The first trial concluded earlier this year when a Philadelphia jury awarded a patient more than $2 million in damages. The 20-year old autistic man developed 46 DD breasts while taking Risperdal as a teen.
The recently concluded second trial involved a 19-year old man who suffered breast growth when prescribed Risperdal for “oppositional defiance disorder,” according to Reuters. Unlike the decision in the first trial, this time the jury agreed that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about gynecomastia as a side effect, but did not award damages to the plaintiff because it found no direct link to his man boobs.
When we perform surgery for gynecomastia in New York, as we have for more than three decades, patients are understandably concerned about what may have caused their breasts to grow. Unless there’s a clear underlying medical condition, such as the presence of an extra X chromosome (Klinefelter Syndrome), we discuss other possible causes such as:
– Drugs that treat baldness, such as Propecia
– Other prescription drugs, such as antibiotics
– Anabolic steroids
– Over the counter supplements and prohormones
– Heavy alcohol use
– Liver and kidney problems
It’s extremely difficult to establish a certain direct link in most cases. When a patient tells us, for instance, that he developed gynecomastia after taking steroids and there’s no other apparent cause, we conclude that it’s very likely steroids are to blame and we advise the patient to discontinue their use. But while the triggers listed above (and several others) are either known or strongly suspected to cause moobs, rarely can we establish a link with 100% certainty.
So why did the decisions in the two trials differ? Was there more medical evidence of a link in the first trial, or did that legal team simply do a better job? Perhaps patterns will emerge in future court cases.
In the meantime, we continue to welcome guys with man boobs for consultations, no matter what the cause may be. Contact us to come in for a discussion.