December 7, 2015— The doctor who treated the plaintiff in the third Risperdal trial against Janssen Pharmaceuticals testified that he would not have prescribed the drug if he had more information about its potential to cause gynecomastia. Dr. Edward Kovnar, the pediatric neurologist who treated plaintiff Tim Stange, told the jury:
“If I had the same deck of cards to play with, I’d make the same decision. But if I had a full deck of cards, and all the information, I’d have chosen a different medication.”
Kovnar prescribed Stange the anti-psychotic Risperdal from 2006 until 2009 to help the plaintiff fight his Tourette syndrome symptoms. The doctor is claiming the drug led to the growth of enlarged breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia.
Stange’s is the third case to go to trial on allegations that Janssen failed to warn doctors of the increased risk of breast development in young males linked to taking Risperdal. The first and second trials resulted in victories for the plaintiff and defendants and so Stange’s case is anticipated to be tiebreakers in the mass tort litigation associated with Risperdal.
On Tuesday, the jury heard testimony from Dr. Kovnar about his treatment of Stange. Along with stating that he was not aware of any increased risk of gynecomastia related to Rispderdal over any other drug in the same class, the doctor also testified that many of the patient’s symptoms, including making involuntary screeching noises and repeatedly hitting himself in the groin, did increase while on Risperdal.
Upon cross-examination, Janssen’s attorney, Michael P. Kelly of McCarter & English, noted the information outlining the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia has been included in a label for the drug from August 2007. Kovnar said he would not have relied on the labeling, and even questioned Kelly as to where the label would have appeared. He then asked if it would be included on the bottle, given to him by a Janssen sale representative, or if he would have had to specifically request the information.
Kelly asked Kovnar, “What do you see from drug companies with respect to warnings?”
Kovnar responded that he generally relied on consulting with colleagues, checked online databases used for prescribing medication, and read the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which was referred to at the trial as the PDR. Kovnar stated:
“I see what’s in the PDR. I now know what’s in the PDR was not what was in the label.”
The Janssen attorney went on to show the label, which said gynecomastia was found in 2.3% of Risperdal patients.
“Even though you may not have read this, that August 2007 label was available to you. It was available to you if you had looked for it.”
Kovnar replied, “If I had known where to look for it, I would have looked for it.”
Thomas R. Kline, the attorney representing Stange, walked the jury through Kovnar’s medication notations during his treatment of the patient, with emphasis on the physical tics Stange described, his use of Risperdal, and the weight gain.
Kovnar stated that while the tics appeared to “wax and wane,” they generally increased in severity throughout Stange’s adolescence. He also stated that it’s common for the severity of the symptoms to peak during that period and then become less severe in later years.
The doctor told the jury he prescribed Risperdal to Stange because he believed it had the least amount of side effects of the other neuroleptic medications, which are a type of anti-psychotic drug. He also stated that all neuroleptic drugs can lead to increased levels of prolactin, the hormone that causes gynecomastia. However, he said his understanding was that the relationship was statistically rare, which means it occurred in less than 1,000 patients taking the drug.
The medical records also indicated Stange’s weight increased from the 86th percentile of children his age to the 96th percentile. In addition, the notes showed the tics were sometimes painful, and schoolmates teased Stange about the involuntary movements and noises.
In cross-examination, Kelly stated that none of the medical records showed Stange complained of any breast tenderness, breast growth or lactation, and that even though Kovnar touched Stange’s chest when using a stethoscope, he never examined his chest more fully.
We will keep you updated on the process of this Risperdal trial as it develops.
If you, or someone you love, have suffered in any way as a result of using Risperdal anti-psychotic medication, you must take action. You can do so by seeking the help of our Risperdal lawsuit attorney & lawyers who have been holding corporations, like Janssen, accountable for the harm they have inflicted on consumers for decades.