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Risperidone is an “atypical antipsychotic,” so called because these drugs are chemically different from and have different side effects than the older antipsychotic medications. While science does not understand the exact mechanism of risperidone, it is believed that risperidone affects the way the brain works by blocking the receptors on some of the brain’s nerves, thus altering communication normally done by chemical neurotransmitters.

Johnson & Johnson received FDA approval for Risperdal (their brand name for risperidone) in 1993 for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults and adolescents, as well as for autism in children and adolescents.

Risperdal has also been used “off label” for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, sleep difficulties, depression, Tourette syndrome, stuttering, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Although doctors are allowed to prescribe medications for “off-label” (unapproved) uses, the law prohibits companies from actively promoting or marketing drugs for such uses.

Johnson & Johnson, however, has been embroiled for years in lawsuits charging that it has illegally promoted off-label use of the drug.

In August of 2012, government regulators and attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia settled one such lawsuit for $181 million. They had accused Johnson & Johnson of paying physicians to give speeches that encouraged off-label use of Risperdal, paying for golf outings for doctors and giving bonuses to salespeople who marketed the drug to pediatric doctors. You can read about other legal actions involving Risperdal Lawsuits.

Risperdal carries the risk of serious side effects, including heart failure, stroke, uncontrollable movements, diabetes, gynecomastia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. More information about the side effects of risperidone.