Risperdal (risperidone) is an atypical antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, and acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar mania. These illnesses are thought to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Risperdal works by readjusting the balance of these chemicals, helping to control symptoms. Risperdal was designed to have fewer side effects than older anti-psychotic drugs, and millions of adults and children have used it.
Risperdal is prescribed to treat delusional psychosis (including schizophrenia), but like other atypical antipsychotics, is also used to treat some forms of bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome.
Risperdal was approved by the FDA in 1993 for the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and other forms of psychosis in children and adults. It is also used in combination with lithium or valproate for the treatment of acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder.
Common side effects associated with Risperdal include nausea, anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, low blood pressure, muscle stiffness, muscle pain, sedation, tremors, increased salivation and weight gain (it is not uncommon for patients taking Risperdal over long periods to gain upwards of 50 pounds or even more). Risperdal has also been known to cause sexual dysfunction such as retrograde ejaculation, and may cause a condition called orthostatic hypotension during the early phase of treatment. Patients who develop orthostatic hypotension have a drop in blood pressure when they rise from a lying position and may become dizzy.
Risperdal has been linked to type 2 diabetes, juvenile diabetes, hyperglycemia, other blood sugar disorders, diabetic coma, and pancreatitis- a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas. A 2003 study reported that there were 49% more cases of diabetes among patients taking Risperdal than among patients using older anti-psychotic drugs. After the study, the FDA required Risperdal to carry a new warning label that recommends its users be monitored for blood sugar abnormalities.
In addition, in April 2005, the FDA issued an alert stating that elderly patients treated with Risperdal for dementia had a higher chance for death by stroke and cardiac arrest than patients who did not take the drug. Other dangerous side effects of Risperdal include excessive weight gain, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) and Tardive Dyskinesia. NMS is a potentially fatal condition that can cause severe muscle rigidity and spikes in blood pressure and pulse.
Risperdal is contraindicated in patients who have a history of high blood sugar and diabetes, and older patients who are being treated for mental illness from dementia. People with a history of seizures should consult their doctor before using Risperdal, as should patients with cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, dehydration, diabetes, hyperglycemia, pancreas problems, hypovolemia, Alzheimer’s disease, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, and hepatic impairment.
What is Schizophrenia?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating and baffling mental illnesses known. Schizophrenia appears to be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Stress, heredity, drugs, other medical illness, and physical injury to the brain can also contribute to schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is characterized by a dysfunction of the thinking process, such as hallucinations and delusions, and withdrawal from the outside world. Other schizophrenic characteristics include the inability to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.
What is bipolar I disorder?
Bipolar I disorder is a mood disorder characterized by dramatic swings in mood and energy levels. People with bipolar I disorder alternate between phases or episodes of mania (intense highs) and depression (dramatic lows). Sometimes, people may experience a “mixed” episode, a combination of manic and depressive symptoms. The moods associated with bipolar I disorder are much more exaggerated than the simple “ups and downs” most people experience.
What should I tell my doctor before he or she prescribes Risperdal?
Before taking Risperdal, tell your doctor if you have or had heart problems, seizures, diabetes or increased blood sugar, liver disease, obstruction of your intestines, Reye’s syndrome, a brain tumor, are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant, are breast-feeding, drink alcohol, or have a condition called phenylketonuria.
Why are diabetes and hyperglycemia side effects of Risperdal?
The relationship between Risperdal and hyperglycemia-related adverse events is not completely understood. Assessment of the relationship between atypical antipsychotic use and glucose abnormalities is complicated by the possibility of an increased background risk of diabetes mellitus in patients with schizophrenia and the increasing incidence of diabetes mellitus in the general population.
Can I file a lawsuit if I have suffered damages from taking Risperdal?
Possibly. While all medications have certain, anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to inform physicians adequately regarding the known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held responsible to patients who are injured as the result of inadequate warnings, under a legal theory known as “product liability.” Depending upon the particular circumstances of your case, damages may include recovery for any of the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Emotional distress
If you or a loved one has experienced any health problems while taking Risperdal, you should contact your doctor immediately. You may also wish to contact an experienced Risperdal lawyer to discuss your legal options. As all legal claims are subject to time limits, however, you may risk forfeiture of your right to financial compensation if you delay.