What Is Risperdal?

Risperdal is primarily used to treat certain mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and some effects of autism. It is usually referred to as an atypical antipsychotic because it was initially believed that it, and other atypical antipsychotics, were less likely to cause motor dysfunction. Further research into atypical antipsychotics has since overturned this belief. In general, atypical drugs are no safer than antipsychotics classified as typical. In fact, many families have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer, Janssen-Cilag (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), for severe medical complications arising from its use.

How Does Risperdal Work?

Like most other medications that are prescribed for mental and behavioral disorders, Risperdal works on several receptors in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin receptors. In all, it acts on more than 20 receptors in the brain, most of them varieties of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. For the most part, it is an antagonist, so it reduces the effects these neurotransmitters have on mood and behavior. The effectiveness of this and similar drugs are difficult to track and are often inconsistent from patient to patient. In 2010, a Cochrane study discovered that the drug was somewhat helpful in schizophrenic patients in the initial stage of treatment. However, the study also found that the effect on patients with autism were minimal, particularly in regards to social functioning and obsessive behavior.

Drugs that act on dopamine receptors must always be closely monitored, and Risperdal is no different. Side effect profiles for medications altering dopamine function often contain several severe and permanent conditions. Though rare, this drug is capable of producing motor dysfunction, specifically Tardive dyskinesia. Once present, Tardive dyskinesia is often impossible to treat and causes repetitive movements that are involuntary. This typically includes rapid blinking, grimacing and lip smacking, though limb or torso jerking may also be present. In extreme cases, a person afflicted with the condition may be unable to walk. Tardive dyskinesia is more likely to appear in people taking antipsychotic drugs for an extended period of time.

This drug is also notorious for causing gynecomastia, or the development of breast tissue in men. The tissue is benign, but it can develop to the point where it is impossible to hide. In these cases, surgery is typically the only option available for treating the condition. Gynecomastia occurs when the body’s hormonal balance is profoundly altered. This side effect was not initially presented to doctors and families and was not widely realized until 2006. However, news reports from 2004 found that Johnson & Johnson were aggressively pushing the drug on doctors, asking them to prescribe it to patients that didn’t need it.

This, along with the medication’s risky side effect profile, has prompted many families to file claims against Johnson & Johnson. A drug injury attorney may be able to help a family affected by this medication by offering legal advice and representation for the victim. With a legal expert as an ally, the victim will be given a chance to attain compensation for their suffering as a result of taking this drug.