Risperdal and Invega can lead to breast growth in boys and men, a condition known as gynecomastia. This can cause a great deal of emotional and psychological damage.
One of the serious side effects of two atypical antipsychotic medications, Risperdal and Invega, is the development of abnormally large breasts in boys and young males. The condition, known as gynecomastia, leaves men with breasts that resemble those of women.
Males who take the prescription drugs not only accumulate fat in their chest tissues, as can happen in overweight boys and men, but they also develop excess glandular tissue. Growths typically begin as a small lump under the nipple. The nipple may become tender and gradually will grow larger.
The degree of enlargement can vary from one individual to another, and while gynecomastia most often occurs in both breasts, it can affect just one. When the condition strikes both breasts, each can be affected differently. One breast can grow larger than the other, leaving the drug users with an even more uncomfortable social stigma. In some cases of gynecomastia, males produce breast milk.
Johnson & Johnson manufactures and markets Risperdal (risperidone) and Invega (paliperidone), and it lists gynecomastia as a possible side effect for people who take them. This side effect can cause emotional and psychological damage. School-age boys and young men can become targets for teasing and bullying.
The FDA approves of both drugs as treatment for schizophrenia. Doctors also prescribe Risperdal to treat bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders, and they sometimes look at the drug as an off-label treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and depression.
How Antipsychotics Cause Male Breast Growth
How exactly do these drugs impact breast growth? Risperdal and Invega are classified as prolactin-raising antipsychotics because their dopamine-blocking action can substantially increase levels of prolactin, a hormone released by the pituitary gland. In women, prolactin stimulates breast development and breast milk production. When high levels of prolactin are present in males, those excessive levels can prompt similar processes, resulting in gynecomastia, sometimes accompanied by galactorrhea (abnormal lactation). In severe cases, males have developed large, D-cup sized breasts.
According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, elevated prolactin levels may occur in more than 90 percent of Risperdal users at some point during treatment. This effect, referred to as Risperdal-induced hyperprolactinemia, often persists throughout Risperdal therapy and for some time after the drug is discontinued.
Effects of Gynecomastia
Male breast growth is generally not a threat to physical health. However, it is a condition that often causes a great deal of emotional and psychological damage in males affected by it. In an April 2013 study headed by Dr. Brian I. Labow at Boston Children’s Hospital, researchers administered a series of psychological tests to 47 boys with gynecomastia and an average age of 16.5 and compared the results with a group of boys with no breast enlargement.
The gynecomastia group scored lower for general health, social functioning, self-esteem, mental health and eating behaviors. These negative effects were similar in subjects with varied levels of breast enlargement, suggesting that merely having the condition, no matter if it is mild, moderate or severe, damages boys psychologically.
Additionally, men and boys who need surgery to resolve breast enlargement also suffer physical pain and trauma. Complications can come with breast surgery. Among them: prominent scarring, blood clots, infection, anesthesia reactions, breast shape irregularities and nerve damage.
These detrimental effects of Risperdal-induced gynecomastia and the risks and expense of surgical treatment of the condition have led to the filing of hundreds of lawsuits against the manufacturer of Risperdal.
Mild to moderate cases of gynecomastia may resolve themselves with discontinuing the use of Risperdal or Invega. Switching to a safer, prolactin-sparing antipsychotic medication becomes an option at that point. Unfortunately, drug-induced breast enlargement can become a persistent condition, especially in cases of severe breast enlargement.
If gynecomastia is persistent – meaning that enlarged breasts remain for a year or more – doctors can suggest surgery to normalize breast size. Many men and boys have had to undergo standard or laser-assisted liposuction, male breast reduction surgery or mastectomy to resolve male breast enlargement.