Almost half of the 6,700 Risperdal lawsuits in a mass tort program in Philadelphia may never see a courtroom if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds an appeal that says those victims – boys and men who suffered gynecomastia, or excess breast development, related to the drug – waited too long to sue.
This is because last year, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a trial court 2015 decision that granted Johnson & Johnson and Jansen Pharmaceutical’s motion for summary judgement in two of the cases after the drug companies’ corporate lawyers argued that the plaintiffs had filed after the two-year statute of limitations. The ruling basically agreed with the defendants and set the deadline for cases to have been filed by June 30 of 2009.
Both court judges said their decision was influenced by the availability of medical journal pieces, newspaper and magazine articles and television programming that had established a link between gynecomastia and Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic medication approved to treat adult and adolescent schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (and also used to treat ADHD). Claimants, they ruled, should have reasonably known by June 30, 2009, that their excess breast development was caused by the drug.
But victims and their attorneys say the ruling fails to consider the uniqueness of each plaintiff’s personal circumstances and awareness, or the difference in their access and consumption of media. Some victims, the advocates contend, did not understand their condition was tied to the drug until more recently because they simply were not exposed to the same information.
If the summary judgment is not overturned in the two cases that both judges agreed were filed too late, somewhere around 40% of the 6,700 Risperdal lawsuits currently pending in Philadelphia could also be dismissed. That means 2,680 victims may never even see their day in court
Seven of the Risperdal lawsuits in the Philadelphia mass tort program have gone to trial since 2015, with juries awarding between $2.5 and $70 million to five plaintiffs. It’s no wonder that the drug companies want to throw out a good chunk of the pending cases.
Risperdal is made by Jansen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson, and has been on the market since the 1990s. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved its use for children in October 2006, updating the label to warn that gynecomastia had occurred in 2.3% of male adolescents. Previously, the label indicated it was a rare side effect among just 1 in 1,000 patients