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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1993 approval of the anti-psychotic medication Risperdal was considered a game-changer in the treatment of schizophrenia. It received such positive feedback that in 2006 the agency approved the drug for use in children, particularly to treat irritability in autistic children between the ages of five and 16.
The medical community lauded the second-generation drug for its success in helping mitigate the propensity for explosive behavior and aggression, both when provoked and unprovoked, in children with autism.
Patients also reported being able to think more clearly. The drug blocks the brain’s receptors for dopamine and serotonin, helping to improve thinking, mood and behavior.
Risperdal has gone on to become a widely popular treatment of choice for a variety of other mental illnesses, including various types of bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and mania in conjunction with bipolar disorder.
But the same year the FDA approved Risperdal for children, the drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, updated the drug’s warning label to caution about the risk of male adolescents developing Risperdal gynecomastia, a non-cancerous increase in the size of male breast tissue.
Risperdal gynecomastia varies from person to person, Drugwatch reports, and can affect one or both breasts, though most often the latter. Some cases of Risperdal gynecomastia result in boys lactating (producing breast milk).
Currently, no medications exist to reverse gynecomastia.
In mild to moderate cases, Risperdal gynecomastia may be resolved by discontinuing the medication and substituting it with a “safer, prolactin-sparing antipsychotic medication,” according to Drugwatch.
Some patients resort to wearing a compression bra, also known as a compression vest or gynecomastia vest, to flatten their chests. There are also a number of gynecomastia compression shirts on the market at major retailers including Walmart, Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
If the enlarged breasts remain for more than a year, Drugwatch states that surgery is needed to remove the excess breast tissue, a diagnosis echoed by plastic surgeons, who note that once solid tissue has formed, surgery is the only option. Male breast reduction procedures — formally called reduction mammoplasty — typically include liposuction as well as the surgical removal of the excess glandular tissue. In severe cases a mastectomy may be required.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of gynecomastia surgery in 2016 was $3,525, not including anesthesia, operating room facilities or other related expenses.
The website gynecoma.com reports that patients should expect “spending not less than $7,000” for the procedure, which is usually not covered by insurance unless it’s “associated with a serious and life threatening medical situation like extreme pain or a cancerous tumor.”
Thousands of Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuits have been filed across the country, accusing the drug-maker of failing to warn consumers about this risk. Risperdal is blamed for increasing the male adolescents’ levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates female breast development and lactation, resulting in gynecomastia.
The lawsuits seek compensation for both the physical pain and expense to treat the condition as well as the negative impact on the plaintiffs self-esteem and mental health.
If you’ve suffered from Risperdal gynecomastia contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley for a free case review.