Once exclusively marketed for use in adults, psychotherapeutic drugs are now prescribed to hundreds of thousands of American children to help them overcome challenges that could otherwise cripple both their academic and social development. It’s easy to understand why. For generations, bright, misunderstood children who were cynically labeled as “disruptive” or “lazy” were abandoned by the educational system, with consequences that often impacted the rest of their lives. Many of today’s children can avoid similar fates with a few visits to their pediatrician. A medication that can help your son apply himself to his schoolwork and keep him from compulsively fidgeting through the entire school day? Of course you’d look into that, right?How about a drug that would help your son grow size 46 DD breasts? Not so much? Unfortunately, in the case of at least one medication, the same drug delivered both those effects. Defective drugs are not a new topic for our blog, but a trial that recently concluded in Pennsylvania has brought the issue back into the spotlight. A Philadelphia jury recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.5 million in damages to a 20-year-old autistic man who began taking its drug, risperidone, when he was just eight years old. Risperidone, better known by its Johnson & Johnson brand name, Risperdal, has been on the market for more than 20 years. It was approved to treat schizophrenia in adults in 1993, but in 2013 the company paid $2.2 billion in civil and criminal fines – the third largest pharmaceutical settlement in history – to settle accusations that it illegally promoted Risperdal for use in children, as well as developmentally disabled adults and seniors suffering from dementia. The previous year, autism researchers had warned against the growing use of Risperdal to treat behavioral symptoms in autistic children, while a second team of researchers published a study that found the use of Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs had increased sevenfold in children between 1993 and 2009. Most of the latter increase had taken place without any clinical studies to back up that usage, the study found, despite the various known side effects of the drug. For one little boy – the plaintiff in the recent case against Johnson & Johnson – those warnings came much too late. When his mother brought him to his pediatric neurologist in 2002 to seek help with his autism-related irritability, she didn’t know that the doctor’s office had been visited more than 20 times by a pharmaceutical sales representative who was pushing Risperdal. Though physicians are free to prescribe any medications they believe are clinically appropriate for a given patient, Risperdal was not approved by the FDA for any use in children or adolescents until 2006. Among Risperdal’s known side effects is an increase in the body’s levels of prolactin, the human hormone that enables women to secrete breast milk. The boy took Risperdal for several years during one of the key developmental periods of his life. By the time he was in his early teens, he had developed large female breasts. He endured the condition and its resulting embarrassment throughout his teenaged years. According to his mother, his self-confidence was badly damaged and he was unable to look at himself naked in the mirror. Now a 20-year-old man, he faces the prospect of a double mastectomy: the only way for him to get rid of the breasts he should never have developed in the first place. As our society increasingly turns to cutting-edge pharmaceutical therapy to not only cure what ails us in adulthood, but also to improve the lives of our children, the responsibility has never been greater to ensure that the potentially adverse effects of those drugs are ferreted out by exhaustive clinical testing and extensively documented for the benefit of these vulnerable patients’ parents. More than 1,000 other defective drug lawsuits similar to this young man’s are pending against Johnson & Johnson over the inappropriate use of Risperdal in children and adolescents. If you believe that you or your child has been adversely affected by the childhood use of Risperdal or similar antipsychotic medication, call the Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys of Scartelli Olszewski for a consultation about your options.