Author Steven Brill says he has been overwhelmed with letters and emails following the publication of a 15-chapter story on pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. He says many consumers were completely unaware of the company’s illegal practices regarding many of its drugs, including antipsychotic Risperdal, which Brill covers in the first chapter.
Brill’s piece, titled “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker,” details how the company settled lawsuits for billions of dollars after allegedly illegally promoting Risperdal for unapproved uses. Brill said he has received an avalanche of emails in a short amount of time indicating that, “the average member of the public doesn’t know much at all and is quite surprised and quite alarmed.”
Brill also includes the story of Austin Pledger, an Alabama man who was awarded $2.5 million in a Risperdal lawsuit. Pledger was given the drug beginning at age 12 for autism and eventually developed size 46DD breasts — a condition known as gynecomastia. In addition to promoting Risperdal for unapproved uses, the company failed to warn doctors and patients about the increased risks of gynecomastia associated with Risperdal.
Unfortunately, the billions of dollars in settlements and lawsuits don’t do a whole lot to stop companies like Johnson & Johnson from illegal drug practices, according to Brill. “When you add up the math, they still made billions of dollars,” says Brill. “It’s hardly a deterrent.”
However, more patients are filing Risperdal breast growth lawsuits against J&J as more information surfaces. Recent studies have found that the drug increases levels of prolactin, the hormone responsible for breast tissue growth.