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November 11, 2015

Philly firm scores legal victory against maker of drug that caused male breast growth

Drug manufacturer Janssen says FDA warnings were clear; condition not their fault

A Philadelphia law firm is part of a recent court victory, winning $1.75 million for a client who had developed breasts after taking a drug used to treat health issues caused by autism and bi-polar disorder. 

On Wednesday, Stephen Sheller, of Sheller P.C. Law Firm in Center City said Monday's win in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia against Janssen, makers of Risperdal, was only the most recent in an ongoing court battle over the drug. 

Sheller's firm has partnered with other law firms across the country to represent thousands of clients claiming damages caused by the medication.

Monday's case – in which the plaintiff was a Maryland boy who developed breasts, a medical condition called gynecomastia, after taking Risperdal – was argued by Jason Itkin of the Houston-based law firm Arnold and Itkin.

Arnold and Itkin joined with Sheller P.C. and another Philadelphia firm, Kline and Specter, in bringing cases against the manufacturer of Risperdal. 

Sheller said this was the third case for the attorneys and these firms represent more than 8,000 clients in cases against Janssen Pharmaceuticals related to Risperdal causing gynecomastia among men.

"It's not fat or fatty tissue. You grow female breasts," Sheller said in an interview Wednesday. "And, you have no hope of getting rid of them unless you have a mastectomy." 

Sheller said he tried the first case against Janssen Pharmaceuticals and won $2.5 million for a client back in February. 

"I was the one who started the investigation," Sheller said. "No kid or adult should ever be on this drug, period." 

According to Sheller, competing drugs that treat the same issues haven't caused gynecomastia in men, which, he said, means the side effect is an issue specifically with Risperdal.

"They didn't warn anyone about this. They claim they did, but they didn't," he said. 

Contacted Wednesday, Robyn Reed Frenze, a spokesperson for Janssen, which has offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said that during the trial, the jury heard evidence that the FDA-approved Risperdal had labels warning patients of potential side effects and, she said, that the patient's physical condition, in Monday's case, was not caused by using the medication.  

"Risperdal has helped and is still helping millions of patients with debilitating mental illnesses and neuro-developmental conditions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan," she said in a statement. 

A fourth case against the pharmaceutical company, Sheller said, is currently underway and could be decided in the near future.