Former Foster Children Advocate Against Antipsychotics as Risperdal Lawsuits Surge, WSJ Reports

Published on February 26, 2014 by Sandy Liebhard

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After spending much of his childhood on a cocktail of psychiatric drugs similar to one named in Risperdal lawsuit filings, a man in Pennsylvania is the latest to advocate against their use in foster care children, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“It felt like having a very heavy blanket pressed against my mind,” the now-23 year old remembers.

According to a February 23rd article, he is just one of thousands of children in Medicaid and foster care that have been treated with antipsychotic medications over the past decade. This number has increased to such a degree that states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arkansas have since created advisory boards to weigh in on the issue.

Estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services indicate that approximately 400,000 children were in foster care in 2012, many of which may have been prescribed antipsychotics for several diagnoses. But were some of these scripts written for conditions not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

The Journal reports that medications under the greatest scrutiny are Abilify, Seroquel, Zyprexa and Risperdal, a drug associated with male breast development and other side effects. Approved in 1993, Risperdal was cleared for use in adults and adolescents with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This medication, which is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and marketed by its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. did not receive FDA approval for use in children until 2006.

Risperdal Gynecomastia, other Side Effects Alleged in Lawsuits against J&J

It has also been associated with male breast development in a number of Risperdal gynecomastia claims, and was involved in a historic settlement reached in November 2013. As part of the agreement, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve claims that the drug was promoted for use in children, as well as elderly patients with dementia.

According to the Journal, data from 2009 indicates that 12-13% of children in foster care took antipsychotics, compared to 2% of children in Medicaid. Research led by a Rutgers University professor noted that just 1% of those receiving private insurance were given antipsychotics.

Right now, the number of Risperdal lawsuits is continuing to rise. As of February 2014, more than 200 cases against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen had been filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiffs involved in this consolidated litigation allege the companies’ failure to adequately warn about gynecomastia and other side effects that may be tied to use of the antipsychotic.

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