Risperdal Side Effects
Risperdal (risperidone)—an antipsychotic drug used to treat disorders like schizophrenia, ADHD, and bipolar disorder—has been linked to gynecomastia, a condition in which boys grow breasts.
Gynecomastia is perhaps the most severe of Risperdal’s side effects. It has spawned 18,000 lawsuits alleging that drug maker Johnson & Johnson failed to warn male patients that Risperdal could cause them to grow breasts.
But Risperdal can have dozens of other side effects, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction, low blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle-related spasms and uncontrollable movements.
Risperdal and Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia stems from a hormone imbalance and can lead to the growth of male breasts and significant weight gain. It is believed that Risperdal may cause gynecomastia in young male users because it increases levels of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates female breast development and lactation.
Risperidone should be administered to young patients with caution.
The Risperdal-gynecomastia link gained attention from a 2006 study by a Duke psychiatrist that found a strong association between Risperdal and gynecomastia in children and adolescents. The study concluded that when risperidone is administered to adolescents for psychotic symptoms, the drug can increase prolactin levels and lead to gynecomastia.
Another 2006 study, this one in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, drew a similar conclusion, noting that risperidone should be administered to young patients with caution.
A more recent study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology concludes that there is a strong association between risperidone use and gynecomastia in young adult males. Compared to non-users, children and adolescent risperidone users were found to have a gynecomastia risk that was five times higher.
The study explicitly notes the “high psychological burden” of gynecomastia.
The Psychological Burden of Gynecomastia
It likely goes without saying that a young boy developing breasts would have not only physical side effects but devastating psychological consequences as well. Risperdal patients who suffer from gynecomastia may feel frightened and confused. They may not understand what is causing their body to change, and may feel like freaks.
These feelings of fear, shame, and isolation can be compounded by peers taunting and shaming Risperdal patients for their bodies. Adolescents can be relentless bullies, which can have lasting effects on their victims’ self-worth.
One such victim, Shaquil Byrd, was prescribed Risperdal to treat depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Soon after he started taking the drug, Mr. Byrd grew breasts, which would lactate at times.
For five years—from 2002 until he stopped taking Risperdal in 2007—Mr. Byrd was mocked and harassed by classmates. His confidence wilted, and his self-image became warped.
"He did a lot of crying."
“He did a lot of crying,” Mr. Byrd’s mother, Eugenia Jordan, told WNYT. “He was very uncomfortable around other people.”
In 2014, Mr. Byrd had his breasts surgically removed: a big step forward in his recovery from this trauma.
He also filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson—one of 18,000 the company now faces in the wake of Risperdal’s traumatic side effects.
Other Hormonal Side Effects
The following side effects are less common than the ones above, but brought about by the same prolactin increase that causes gynecomastia:
- Loss of sex drive
- Menstrual abnormalities
- Breast swelling or soreness
- Breast milk production
Common Side Effects
While gynecomastia is probably the most traumatic of Risperdal’s side effects, the drug may also cause the following common side effects (according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI):
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heartrate
- Increased appetite
- Sexual dysfunction
Muscle-Related Side Effects
Risperdal may also cause muscle-related side effects called extrapyramidal effects (EPS), as well as tardive dyskinesia (TD). EPS symptoms may include the following:
TD may manifest itself via the following symptoms:
- Involuntary movements (e.g., jerking)
- Repetitive movements
- Tongue rolling
- Lip smacking
SGA (Second Generation Antipsychotics) Side Effects
Risperdal is a Second Generation Antipsychotic (SGA). SGAs have been linked to numerous side effects, including the following:
- Weight gain
- High blood sugar
- High cholesterol
- Sudden cardiac death from arrhythmia
In elderly patients, SGAs have been associated with the following:
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
- Increased risk of death
In extremely rare cases (less than 1 percent of patients), SGAs may cause neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a life-threatening condition whose symptoms include:
- Extreme muscle stiffness
If you or a loved one experiences any of the symptoms associated with neuroleptic malignant syndrome after taking Risperdal, contact a doctor right away.
Get a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one suffered severe side effects after taking a medication, we can help. Contact us for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Don’t wait; these cases are time-sensitive, and you may be owed money.
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