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PA Jury Awards Millions for Drug Company's Failure to Warn

A Philadelphia jury has awarded a $2.5 million dollar verdict to a plaintiff who suffered gynecomastia after taking the drug Risperdal.  Currently there are numerous pending cases involving harmful side effects allegedly caused by Risperdal.  Dangerous drug cases often involve a failure to adequately warn users of harmful side effects.  A drug manufacturer is required to warn its users of potential risks involved in taking the drug.  A failure to warn when a dangerous side effect is known is a basis of many mass tort cases involving pharmaceuticals--including the Risperdal cases.

The month long trial in this case, Pledger v. Janssen, was contentious with each side taking shots at the other's expert witnesses.  The plaintiff, Pledger, was prescribed the drug Risperdal when he was 8 years old to help alleviate behavioral symptoms associated with autism.  At the time the drug was prescribed to him it did not contain a warning that gynecomastia was a potential side effect.  Gynecomastia is a condition in which males grow enlarged breasts.  The condition is often caused by a rise in the prolactin hormone levels.  Unfortunately after taking the drug as a boy the plaintiff suffered from gynecomastia.

The plaintiff filed suit against the drug manufacturer claiming that they failed to warn of the drug's ability to raise prolactin levels causing gynecomastia.  The plaintiff also claimed that the drug manufacturer failed to turn over to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) documents showing that the drug can raise this specific type of hormone level.  

Counsel for the plaintiff claimed that Janssen failure to turn over key information to the FDA was the worst case of corporate misconduct he has seen in his entire career.  Representatives for the defendant drug manufacturer have indicated that they feel the verdict is improper and an appeal may follow.

Sadly, pharmaceuticals often have harmful side effects.  The patients prescribed any medication should be adequately warned of the potential side effects, in order to make an informed decision on whether the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks.  By law drug manufacturers are required to warn of harmful side effects, failure to do so may amount to actionable negligence.  

Source:  "$2.5M Verdict Awarded in First Phila. Risperdal Trial", by P.J. D'Annunzio, The Legal Intelligencer, February 25, 2015

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